TREATING DYSPHAGIA REFLUX TESTING AND TREATMENT

Treatment for dysphagia will vary based on the cause of your condition. Learn more about your options.

MANAGING DYSPHAGIA SYMPTOMS

Treatment for dysphagia will vary based on the cause of your swallowing problems. For dysphagia caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or Barrett’s esophagus, treatment tends to focus on bringing your GERD symptoms under control while managing your dysphagia symptoms.

Dysphagia can be a frightening condition, but it doesn’t have to be chronic. If you’re having trouble swallowing, see your doctor as soon as possible to discuss treatment options.

Dysphagia can make it difficult to stay adequately nourished or hydrated and may also signal a more serious underlying condition, such as Barrett’s esophagus. Other risks associated with dysphagia include increased risk for lung infections, aspiration difficulties, and pneumonia.1

Woman lying in bed winces in pain while gesturing toward her throat. Man next to her sleeps.

LIFESTYLE CHANGES

Lifestyle changes are often prescribed for a diagnosis of dysphagia caused by GERD because they can reduce GERD symptoms, and also help make eating and swallowing more comfortable.

Recommended lifestyle changes for dysphagia include:

  • Eliminating alcohol and nicotine
  • Eating frequent smaller meals instead of three large meals
  • Following a soft food or liquid diet
  • Avoiding sticky foods like jam or peanut butter
  • Cutting foods into smaller pieces

Difficulties with swallowing can interfere with your ability to meet your daily nutritional needs or maintain a healthy weight. Discuss your nutritional needs with your doctor to ensure you stay healthy during treatment for dysphagia.


TREATMENTS FOR DYSPHAGIA

If you have scar tissue buildup from GERD in your esophagus that is causing your difficulties swallowing, your doctor may recommend esophageal dilation. In this procedure, an endoscope with a small balloon attached is inserted into your esophagus. The balloon is inflated to gently stretch your esophagus.

Other endoscopic procedures can be performed to strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) separating your stomach from your esophagus. Strengthening the LES makes it less likely to allow acids to reflux into your throat. In rare cases, severely damaged parts of the esophagus may be removed.

For severe cases of dysphagia that are unresponsive to lifestyle changes, surgery may be necessary. Some surgical procedures used to treat GERD can also improve or eliminate dysphagia symptoms.

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Information and resources on this site should not be used as a substitute for medical advice from your doctor. Always discuss diagnosis and treatment information including risks with your doctor. Keep in mind that all treatment and outcome results are specific to the individual patient. Results may vary.


1

Nazarko L. The clinical management of dysphagia in primary care. British Journal of Community Nursing. 2008;13(6):258-264.