10 Causes of Dysphagia

By jolene
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Dysphagia is a medical term that refers to difficulty swallowing or disruption in the swallowing process. This can include difficulty of passage of solids or liquids from the mouth to the stomach.

The process of swallowing has three phases: oral phase, pharyngeal phase, and esophageal phase. Dysphagia can be a symptom of several conditions, that may affect any of the three swallowing phases.

It is important to distinguish dysphagia from odynophagia, which refers to painful swallowing. When dysphagia is undiagnosed, those affected have a higher risk of pulmonary aspiration and aspiration pneumonia as solids or liquids can travel down the wrong passage (respiratory tract). Patients with dysphagia can also experience malnutrition, dehydration, and renal failure. Patients with dysphagia often experience other associated symptoms such as coughing, choking, inability to control food in the mouth, nasal regurgitation, and more.

Cause #1: Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer refers to cancer that originates from the esophagus. Symptoms of esophageal cancer usually include dysphagia, weight loss, hoarseness of voice, enlarged lymph nodes, odynophagia, coughing, and more. In these patients, dysphagia is the most common symptom, and it starts first for solids and progresses to include liquids.

Esophageal cancer can be generally divided into two types: adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Adenocarcinoma is usually found in the lower third of the esophagus with risk factors of obesity, acid reflux, and smoking tobacco, while squamous cell carcinoma occurs in the upper two-thirds with risk factors of consumption of very hot liquids, smoking tobacco and chronic alcohol consumption. Treatment is dependent on the stage and location of cancer.


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