Difficulty swallowing Difficulty swallowing

Difficulty swallowing

Special 1 August, 2017 Isabel Vallejo


This disorder consists of the inability to swallow liquid or solid foods. It is common in elderly patients who have a medical history of neurological problems.

Medical Advisor Leonor Medina Tejada, Geriatrician and ear, nose and throat specialist,
practitioner at Coomeva Private Healthcare

Dysphagia, difficulty passing food down your throat, is a very unknown condition and often goes unnoticed. This condition is brought on by other conditions: tumors, complications with common diseases, or it may be the result of a psychological disorder, trauma or an eating disorder such as bulimia or anorexia.

According to geriatrician and ear, nose and throat specialist Leonor Medina Tejada, this condition is very common in the elderly, when the body begins to reject food and experience different diseases. “Sometimes a persistent cough can lead to the patient not being able to eat. I have also treated cases, however, of newborns that can’t swallow normally and can only receive IV fluids liquids. While this can sometimes be caused by a genetic defect, rigorous testing is needed to diagnose it,” our specialist explains.

According to a study published by Northwestern University, “Dysphagia is common in adults that have experienced a neurological event, a stroke or structural damage such as treatments for head and neck cancer.” See also Be a supportive grandparent, not a partner in crime

According to reports from the University of Chile Clinical Hospital, both ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes are the most common causes of swallowing disorders. Humans swallow 2,500 times a day, even when we are sleeping, which is why this issue is something that goes beyond getting proper nourishment.

Other symptoms of this condition can include weight loss, pain while swallowing, chest discomfort, frequent heartburn, coughing or having a scratchy throat when eating, especially when drinking liquids.

Psychological complications

Many of the symptoms people report feeling who suffer from issues with swallowing are mostly psychological. They claim that it feels like the food is stuck in the walls of their throat, that swallowing produces an uncontrollable cough or that it is necessary to massage their neck in order to get the bolus to go down correctly and not feel like they have an obstruction in their throat. Sometimes they fear that they will die from choking. See also Seniors fascinated with technology

Of the cases that she has treated, and after conducting a detailed check-up, Medina Tejada has treated youth that cannot eat after they have undergone extensive diets and deprived themselves of food in hopes of achieving a model-like figure.

“Cases of eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia must be analyzed by psychiatrists and psychologists,” she states. Similarly, “Children and babies may experience swallowing issues caused by birth defects or by disorders that can occur in their neurological development.”

According to the American Cancer Association, cancer treatment can lead to swallowing complications, especially with cancers of the throat, esophagus and stomach. This can be risky, as poor nutrition is very dangerous when people’s immune systems are low. Also, chemotherapy and radiation treatments bring side effects such as dizziness and nausea, which can make it difficult for some patients to eat.

If you have ever had a throat condition such as a cyst or tumor, or if you have poor eating habits that have been recurrent, Medina Tejada recommends seeing an expert to obtain a timely solution. Some methods for improving the ability to swallow include considering the consistency of the food, the position of the body when eating and receiving support from family or caretakers.