Difficulty swallowing is when you find it hard to swallow food or liquids as you normally would. The symptom usually occurs when there is a problem with your throat or the muscle that helps you swallow. This difficulty can lead to choking or pain when trying to swallow.
This symptom may be due to serious diseases like cancer or something less serious such as a sore throat. It may go away within a few days to years, depending on the cause.
Any of the following may cause difficulty swallowing:
- Food or other objects may block your throat. A communication problem between the brain and the mouth or throat muscles may cause difficulty swallowing.
- A sore throat from an infection.
- An increase in the size of your thyroid gland. Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in front of your neck that produces hormones that the rest of your body needs.
- A problem with the muscles of your throat may prevent the free flow of food.
- Cancer of the mouth or throat can also cause difficulty swallowing.
To prevent complications such as choking or weight loss, it is essential to visit your healthcare provider when you notice any of the following:
- You find it hard to swallow food or liquid.
- You feel there is an object in your throat.
- You cough while swallowing most times.
- Have trouble breathing well while eating.
- Other symptoms like a cracked voice, vomiting, burning pain in the chest or finding it hard to chew may mean you should to see a doctor.
You can not prevent difficulties swallowing but you can reduce its severity by following self-care tips and getting care for the underlying condition.
Difficulty swallowing sometimes goes away on its own. At other times, the underlying cause needs treatment before it gets better. You can manage or treat the symptom with the following:
- Sit upright when eating to allow your food to flow properly. You can also remain in this position a few minutes after eating.
- Eat slowly, and do not swallow your food in a big portion. Cut your food into smaller pieces.
- Reduce foods that you find hard to chew. You can take more fluids like pap.
- Drinking warm fluids or soups can soothe your throat. This may also improve the lubrication of your throat and promote swallowing.
- Your healthcare provider may teach you specific exercises that can help you swallow better.
- Your healthcare provider can recommend lozenges or an antibiotic for your sore throat.
- If you find it hard to swallow at all, your health care provider may put a feeding tube through your mouth.
- Surgery may help to remove foreign objects or cancerous growth that may be causing difficulty when swallowing.
Difficulty swallowing is most times uncomfortable, but with some self-care tips, you should be able to manage the symptom. Do not forget to cut your food into smaller pieces for easier swallowing. You can also contact your healthcare provider for the kind of foods you can include in your diet to prevent difficulty in swallowing.