Dysphagia causes and treatments.

The process of swallowing isn't as simple as you may think. Moving solid food or liquids from your mouth to your stomach requires the coordinated efforts of your throat muscles and your esophagus, explains Dr. Suresh Mahajan, a gastroenterologist on the medical staff of Southwest General. When that process doesn't work as well as it should, it creates a condition called dysphagia. Here, Dr. Mahajan explains what dysphagia is and what you can do about it.

Q. What is dysphagia?
A. Dysphagia is a condition in which a person has difficulty swallowing solids, liquids, or both. Patients describe the feeling as food sticking in their throats, hanging up, or not going down.

Q. What causes dysphagia?
A. Dysphagia can be the result of something as simple as acid reflux or as serious as a tumor. The most common causes include ulceration and spasms associated with acid reflux, allergic or eosinophilic esophagitis, or physical blockages. Swallowing problems also can be psychological or stress related, or they can result from muscular or neurological issues, such as stroke.

Q. How do you diagnose dysphagia?
A. The two main ways to diagnose dysphagia are an upper gastrointestinal series (Upper GI) and an endoscopy. An upper GI is an X-ray that shows the doctor whether there are any blockages or scar tissue in the esophagus. An endoscope is a tiny camera that is fed down a patient's throat on a thin, flexible tube to look at the lining of the esophagus, stomach, and upper small intestine.

Q. How is dysphagia treated?
A. Depending on the cause, treatment usually involves one of three Ds: drugs, diet, or dilation. If the problem is caused by acid reflux, antacids may be suggested. Dietary changes can be made for dysphagia that is related to allergic reactions. Inflammation or scar tissue that narrows the inner circumference of the esophagus may be corrected by expanding it with an inflatable balloon.

You can schedule an appointment with Dr. Mahajan by calling 440-816-2789. His office is located at Southwest General Health Center, 7255 Old Oak Blvd., Suite C101, in Middleburg Heights.