Treating Dysphagia

An evaluation helps your healthcare provider find the cause of your trouble swallowing. This condition is called dysphagia. Your evaluation may include a health 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 advise a procedure to stretch or widen your esophagus (esophageal dilation). Or your provider may advise surgery.

What you can do

Follow your treatment plan to help control dysphagia. Take all medicines as directed. You also can help ease your symptoms by being careful about what and how you eat.

Medicines

You may need medicines. These can:

  • Reduce or neutralize stomach acids

  • Control muscle spasms in the food pipe (esophagus)

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

  • Be injected into the esophagus to help symptoms

Esophageal dilation

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

Eating tips

  • Eat slowly in a relaxed setting.

  • Don’t talk while you eat.

  • Take small bites. Chew slowly and thoroughly.

  • Sit upright 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. This can make swallowing easier.

Man and woman in kitchen putting fruit in blender.
Blend foods to make them easier to eat.

Additional therapy

Your healthcare provider may advise that you see a speech therapist or occupational therapist. These specialists in dysphagia may give you exercises and instructions to help you eat safely.

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