Dysphagia or swallowing difficulty is not a disease; it is a problematic symptom which is always indicative of one or more underlying health conditions. What exactly causes dysphagia cannot be universally stated as the reasons are far too diverse.
In any case, if you or someone close to you has been diagnosed with dysphagia, coping can be difficult, and it is known to causes extreme anxiety. Up next, we have a collection of tips from experts and patients which might just help make that coping process a lot easier.
Acknowledge the Primary Concerns
The main concern for someone suffering from dysphagia is their reduced ability or complete inability to swallow food and drink. This can lead to starvation, dehydration, malnutrition, and choking among other severe health problems. In extreme cases, surgical intervention might be necessary.
Fortunately, there are solutions to this problem, and they work well for most patients with mild to moderate swallowing difficulties. The idea is that the consistency or texture of both food and drink must be changed in a way that the patient can orally ingest it without difficulty. If it works and the doctor agrees, surgical procedures may not be required at all.
Turn Food into Puree
It is easy to use a blender and turn a nutritionally balanced meal into puree for hazardless consumption. It may take some getting used to, but there are plenty of meal suggestions and readymade, nutritious purees available to help make life a lot easier for someone suffering from dysphagia. Do be careful with what you are blending though. It should not have anything hard (bone, seeds, etc.) in it to begin with.
Use a Drink Thickener
As for water, juice, tea, coffee, soda, or any other drink, you can use a beverage thickener. Thickeners can make any beverage safe to drink for dysphagia patients by changing the drink’s consistency immediately on mixing. Interested nursing homes, caregivers, and other parties can check SimplyThick Easy Mix on LinkedIn for more information.
Get to Know the Underlying Cause
Anyone at any age can suffer from mild to moderate, or even severe dysphagia, but it’s also true that dysphagia is most seen in older individuals who have had a history of neurological disorders and/or have suffered from a stroke. This is not to say that dysphagia is a normal sign of aging, but other health concerns attributed to aging can contribute towards someone developing swallowing difficulties.
Note that dysphagia cannot be diagnosed without a barium test, a manometry, or an endoscopy. Never attempt to self-diagnose or self-medicate. You can safely implement the steps mentioned here to ease the swallowing process if you are having issues with swallowing food and/or drink.
Even though the steps mentioned here will help with coping, seeking medical advice to detect and treat the underlying cause as soon as possible comes highly recommended. From achalasia, diffuse spasm, and scleroderma to esophageal stricture and esophageal tumors (benign/malign), dysphagia can be caused too many reasons for any patient to let it go undiagnosed.