Dysphagia (Difficulty Swallowing)

Dysphagia (Difficulty Swallowing) services offered in Midlothian, N. Chesterfield, Short Pump, Henrico, Richmond and Mechanicsville, VA

Dysphagia means you have difficulty swallowing, which affects your ability to eat and drink. The team at Richmond Gastroenterology Associates, which has eight offices in Richmond, Chesterfield, Henrico, and Mechanicsville, Virginia, specializes in diagnosing and treating dysphagia. To find out more about dysphagia, call the office nearest you or schedule an appointment online today.

Dysphagia (Difficulty Swallowing) Q & A

What is dysphagia?

Dysphagia is the medical term for difficulty swallowing. There are two types of dysphagia:

Oropharyngeal dysphagia

Oropharyngeal dysphagia means the swallowing problem affects the muscles and nerves in the mouth, pharynx (back of your throat), or upper esophageal sphincter (band of muscles at the top of your esophagus).

With oropharyngeal dysphagia, you may have difficulty chewing, moving food in your mouth, or initiating the swallow.

Esophageal dysphagia

With esophageal dysphagia, the swallowing problems involve the esophagus. This type of dysphagia may make it feel like food gets stuck in your chest. 

The Richmond Gastroenterology Associates team performs diagnostic tests to determine the type of dysphagia you have, which helps direct treatment. 

What causes dysphagia?

You may develop dysphagia from neuromuscular conditions or structural problems that affect any of the parts involved in the swallowing process. 

Common causes of dysphagia include:

  • Stroke
  • Head injury
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Esophageal strictures
  • Achalasia: a disorder that stops the esophagus from pushing food into the stomach

Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) is an allergic inflammatory condition that affects the esophagus. EoE is a newly recognized condition that causes dysphagia.

What tests can diagnose dysphagia?

The team at Richmond Gastroenterology Associates use many tests to diagnose dysphagia. Testing might include:

Modified barium swallow (MBS)

An MBS is a video X-ray that assesses swallowing function in the mouth and throat. During this test, you eat different types of food containing barium (a contrast medium). Then, your provider watches you chew and swallow through an X-ray screen, following the movement of the barium-containing food.

Nasal endoscopy

A nasal endoscopy looks at the swallow at the back of your throat. During this procedure, your provider inserts an endoscope in your nose and advances it towards the back of your throat to evaluate the structure and function.

Esophageal manometry

An esophageal manometry is a diagnostic test that looks at your esophageal muscles to see if they work as they should.

Upper endoscopy

The team at Richmond Gastroenterology Associates performs an upper endoscopy to evaluate your esophagus to look for achalasia, strictures, inflammation, and tumors.

What are the treatments for dysphagia?

Treatment for dysphagia depends on the cause. For esophageal dysphagia from esophageal strictures, the team at Richmond Gastroenterology Associates performs esophageal dilation during your upper endoscopy to open the passageway.

For EoE, the team may prescribe medications that ease the inflammation and improve swallowing. For achalasia, the team may perform surgery that disrupts the muscle at the lower end of your esophagus to improve the movement of food.

To find out more about dysphagia, call Richmond Gastroenterology Associates or schedule an appointment online today.