Allergies, Sinus Issues & Difficulty Swallowing in Denver

When it takes extra effort to swallow, even the most basic tasks like eating and drinking can feel frustrating. If you are suffering from dysphagia and have trouble swallowing, our experts can help you determine the cause and finally find relief.

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What Does It Mean to Have Difficulty Swallowing?

The sensation of difficulty swallowing is also known as “dysphagia.” A swallowing problem generally means an issue with the esophagus or throat, which can make it tough to move food or liquid from the mouth to the stomach. People of any age can experience dysphagia, especially temporarily, but chronic or serious difficulty swallowing is more common in elderly and infant patients.

There are four stages to swallowing. We have more control over the first two steps, but stages three and four should occur by themselves without conscious effort.

  1. Oral Preparation Stage – food or liquid is chewed up and broken down
  2. Oral Stage – your tongue pushes the food or liquid to the back of the mouth, starting the swallowing response
  3. Pharyngeal Stage – food or liquid is quickly passed through the pharynx (the canal that connects the mouth with the esophagus) into the esophagus
  4. Esophageal Stage – the food or liquid passes through the esophagus into the stomach

When moving food or liquid through these phases requires extra effort, or becomes unnaturally difficult or painful, you are likely experiencing dysphagia.

Symptoms of Swallowing Difficulties

The symptoms and side effects of dysphagia can appear differently in each person, and often depend on the underlying cause of the swallowing problem. Symptoms of difficulty swallowing include:

  • Inability to swallow easily
  • Gagging, choking or coughing when trying to swallow
  • Pain or discomfort while swallowing
  • Excessive clearing of the throat
  • The feeling of food getting stuck in your throat or chest
  • A lingering “lump” or “frog” in your throat
  • Hoarseness
  • Drooling
  • Chronic heartburn
  • Acid reflux
  • Excessive pressure in your throat or chest
  • Loss of weight as a result of inadequate intake of food/liquids
  • Coughing caused by liquid, or saliva being sucked into the lungs instead of swallowed correctly

Difficulty swallowing is often mild and annoying, but occasionally it can be severe and dangerous. Minor occurrences should be no cause for concern, but any ongoing, progressing or worsening symptoms should lead to you see an expert otolaryngologist or ENT doctor right away.

What Causes Difficulty Swallowing?

There are a variety of root issues that could be causing your difficulty swallowing. If your dysphagia symptoms linger, it’s important to see a specialized doctor who can confirm the underlying source of your swallowing problem. More benign causes of dysphagia include allergies, sinus issues, and acid reflux. More serious conditions which can cause difficulty swallowing include nervous system disorders, tumors, and paralysis of the vocal cords.

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Allergies and Difficulty Swallowing

It is possible to have difficulty swallowing as a result of blockage or swelling in the throat due to allergies. The body’s response to allergies can cause enough excess mucous to block or narrow the esophagus, causing inflammation or discomfort and leading to symptoms of dysphagia. If prolonged, this inflammation can become esophagitis, which is caused by the presence of any unfamiliar substance affecting the esophagus. An intense allergic reaction can also cause an acute swelling of the esophagus making it difficult to breathe and swallow.

Sinus Issues and Difficulty Swallowing

Anything that agitates the throat or esophagus has the potential to lead to dysphagia, which means sinus problems can cause this symptom as well. It may seem strange that sinus issues can affect difficulty swallowing, but the inflammation and pressure caused by issues like sinusitis is enough to bring on trouble with swallowing. Diverticula, small sacs on the walls of your esophagus, can also be responsible for dysphagia. It’s important to make sure your doctor considers all history and symptoms related to sinus issues before determining if this is the cause of your difficulty swallowing.

Other Causes of Swallowing Problems

Another common cause of dysphagia is GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease. Stomach acid backs up into the esophagus causing irritation and sometimes permanent damage to your esophagus. The swelling and narrowing caused by GERD can cause esophagitis and dysphagia, and can even result in ulcers or scaring if serious.

Rarely, difficulty swallowing can be a sign or result of a more significant issue such as a stroke, tumor, paralyzed vocal cord or neurological disorder. These extreme cases are complicated and require special processes for diagnosis and treatment. An expert ENT doctor will be able to rule out more serious causes of dysphagia or determine next steps for further investigation.

How to Treat Dysphagia

Trouble Swallowing TreatmentDiagnosing the Cause of Dysphagia

The best treatment plan for difficulty swallowing will depend on the root cause of the issue. A specialized ENT doctor should be consulted to review your history, symptoms and lifestyle. The doctor will examine your nose, throat, chest and, if needed, digestive system. A laryngoscopy or endoscopy can help the doctor thoroughly examine the back of the nose and throat using a fiber-optic scope. An upper GI endoscopy or barium swallow can be used to analyze the gastrointestinal tract if GERD is suspected. Once the underlying condition causing your dysphagia is diagnosed, the doctor can decide on the best way to treat your symptoms and help you swallow normally once again.

Treating Allergy Related Dysphagia

If your ENT doctor determines that your swallowing problems are being caused by underlying allergies, there are several types of treatments that can help. Oral allergy medications may help temporarily reduce mucus production and inflammation, which can help you swallow more regularly for a short time. Our allergy experts recommend using allergy drops, also called sublingual immunotherapy drops, which is just a daily drop under the tongue. Just like allergy shots, allergy drops are customized for your unique allergies and designed to relieve or even eliminate your allergy symptoms long-term. By treating your allergies that cause inflammation, irritation, and post-nasal drip, you also treat your symptoms of dysphagia.

Treating Sinus Related Dysphagia

The best sinus treatment will depend on the problem diagnosed by your ENT. Treatments for common issues which cause inflammation and drainage, such as chronic sinusitis, are often treated with minor in-office procedures such as balloon sinuplasty. If the throat or esophagus is discovered to be too narrow, either naturally or due to scarring, the area can be stretched or dilated using a procedure called myotomy. This procedure can be performed in office by an experienced ENT doctor.

Other Causes

Dysphagia caused by GERD or heartburn can be treated with medications that address these issues. These medications prevent stomach acid from backing up and irritating the esophagus, which can help relieve your symptoms and allow you to swallow more easily. Esophageal infections or esophagitis can also be treated with certain antibiotics.

If a neurological disorder is causing your difficulty swallowing, swallowing therapy or exercises may be recommended to help strengthen the correct muscles and increase your ability to swallow easily.

Swallowing Should Be Easy. Get Help from Experts Now!

The experts at Advanced ENT and Allergy Center have treated hundreds of patients suffering from throat issues like dysphagia. Our specialists will determine if allergies or sinus issues are the source of your difficulty swallowing and help you find a treatment plan that truly works. Find relief from your dysphagia symptoms and get back to living your life – without worrying about difficulty swallowing.

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