When a condition is as common as dysphagia, people need to know about it. Not only is it common in adults, with 1 in 6 estimated to currently live with it, but it’s also something that can develop as you age. Though it can be challenging to live with, it is possible to lead a full, happy life – as long as you know how. With this guide, you’ll learn more about what Dysphagia is and what you can do to improve the quality of life of your loved one or even yourself:
What is Dysphagia?
Dysphagia impacts how well you can swallow. Those with it may choke, cough, regurgitate, and have issues breathing, leaving someone feeling very anxious about eating or drinking or even terrified of it. Not wanting to eat or drink then causes further problems.
Dysphagia can occur after a stroke or as a side effect of neck and throat-related cancers. Aging is another common reason for someone to start finding it difficult to swallow.
Types of Dysphagia
There are two main types of dysphagia. These types are oropharyngeal dysphagia and then there’s also esophageal dysphagia. The difference only relates to where your difficulty swallowing occurs. For example, it may occur in your throat or as you try to swallow. For others, it may occur in the esophagus and be caused by that tube narrowing.
How to Live with Dysphagia
You can absolutely live with this condition. While it can lead to issues like malnutrition if left untreated and alone, once you create a comprehensive strategy, you can enjoy a full, happy life and enjoy so many delicious types of food and drink.
Use Thickening Agents
Most people who are living with dysphagia will have looked into the foods that are recommended to avoid, but there are plenty that are not on this list. However, despite this, this doesn’t mean they have any easier time swallowing it. People will struggle to swallow solid food or liquids that are too thin. The answer is deceptively simple to overcome this issue of food that is hard to swallow. You need to get your food to the right consistency for your needs. There are several levels that range from standard food all the way to liquidized food. Where you are on that scale will determine how you’ll need to prepare your food. If you need to thicken up your food or drink, you can do so quite easily with a thickening agent. Simply add a drink thickener for nectar-like consistency to your teas, coffees, juice, and so on. Thickening liquids to drink, in particular, can help keep you hydrated and your throat soothed.
Your doctor or specialist will help you practice several throat exercises that are designed to help you work around your dysphagia. You’ll want to continue these exercises at home to maintain as much independence as possible.
There are some medications that can help relax the throat muscles, and surgery can help repair the damage in your throat or even widen your esophagus manually. These are last-case scenarios for extreme cases, but it’s important to know there are more heavy-duty options out there.