Swallowing is a complex procedure that initiates with food or liquid manipulation in the mouth, mastication (chewing in the case of food), and continues with bolus formation and manipulation by the tongue which then propels the bolus into the throat. This is followed by contraction of muscles in the throat and mobilization of the food into the esophagus where muscle contractions continue to move the food or liquid bolus down transitioning through the chest and into the stomach. Problems at any of these stages result in swallowing dysfunction.
When the muscles in the throat or in the esophagus don’t work properly or in conjunction swallowing difficulties or even pain may result. Treatment is based upon on how severe the symptoms might be, and how they respond to other types of treatment. Some treatments include certain types of stomach acid medication, and possibly Botox or medication for the affected area. Endoscopic surgery may also be an option. In the case of stricture (narrow or tight places in the esophagus, one might need a balloon dilation to the esophagus as well.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD is another esophageal disorder. This occurs when food or acid from the stomach comes up into the esophagus and irritates it. Many infants experience GERD along with adults over the age of 40, as it is a common condition. Treatments for GERD include lifestyle changes, medication, and in extreme cases, surgery. Eating smaller meals and remaining upright after eating may help with GERD.
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