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Treating Dysphagia

Health care provider handing bottle of pills to woman sitting on exam table.
Talk to your healthcare provider before you take any medicines.

A medical evaluation helps your healthcare provider find the cause of your trouble swallowing, or dysphagia. Your evaluation may include a medical history and some special tests. Your provider will make a treatment plan based on the results of your evaluation. You may need to take medicines. In some cases, your provider may suggest a procedure to stretch or widen your esophagus (esophageal dilation). Or your provider may suggest surgery.

What you can do

To help control dysphagia, follow your treatment plan. Take all medicines as directed. You also can help lessen your dysphagia symptoms by being careful about what and how you eat.

Medicines

You may need medicines, such as those that:

  • Reduce or neutralize stomach acids

  • Control esophagus muscle spasms

  • Treat an allergic disorder of the esophagus that is causing the problem

  • Are injected into the esophagus to help symptoms

Esophageal dilation

Dilation is a procedure that your provider can use to widen your esophagus. It is most often done when a narrowing (stricture) of the esophagus is causing the problem. There are many ways your provider can widen your esophagus. He or she can discuss them with you.

Eating tips

  • Eat slowly in a relaxed setting.

  • Don’t talk while you eat.

  • Take small bites and chew slowly and thoroughly

  • Sit in an upright position during and after meals.

  • Ask your provider about any special diets that may help, such as liquid diets.

  • If you have trouble swallowing solid foods, you can use a blender to mash or purée them.

  • Thicken liquids with milk, juice, broth, gravy, or starch to make swallowing easier.

Occupational or speech therapy

Your healthcare provider may recommend that you have an evaluation or sessions with a speech or occupational therapist. These specialists in dysphagia may give you exercises and instructions to help you eat safely.

Online Medical Reviewer: Fraser, Marianne, MSN, RN Lehrer, Jenifer, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Image reviewed by StayWell art team.
Online Medical Reviewer: Lehrer, Jenifer, MD
Last Review Date: 10/1/2016
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