When it comes to caring for people who have a specific disorder, information about treatment and procedures to minimize any potential discomfort is the best course of action for any carer or family.
When it comes to dysphagia, which is an issue where a person has difficulty in swallowing food, there is a lot to know. If it is not treated correctly, it can become a very serious and potentially life-threatening disorder due to weight loss and dehydration.
Dysphagia is becoming more common due to the aging population. However, more treatments are becoming available for those who suffer from it, meaning it is now more manageable at home and requires less invasive actions to treat.
So, with that in mind, this article aims to explore common treatments for dysphagia.
As it is related to issues with swallowing food, the first option for many people is to have their loved one change their diet. This will involve removing all hard and dry foods from their daily intake and replacing them with softer foods or even liquid meals. The SimplyThick organization has created a product to add to others which can thicken food or drink without altering the taste, so it can well be worth exploring this option. Just make sure that you keep the person you are caring for well-hydrated and ask them about the foods that they would like to eat.
Speech and Language Therapy (yes, really!)
You may be surprised to learn that speech and language therapy has a role in treating dysphagia, especially if it is following a stroke or is part of a neurodegenerative disorder. A speech and language therapist can identify the muscles in the face which may or may not be working correctly, as well as assess the condition of the esophagus. They will be able to recommend treatment options and will be able to teach your loved one tips on how to eat and swallow their food with better effectiveness.
Nasogastric Tubes (NG Tubes)
Nasogastric tubes are usually a short-term option for those that have severe dysphagia. This is a tube that goes in the nose and the back of the throat, providing quick access to the stomach. Through this tube, liquid foods are inserted, thus keeping your loved one at a healthy weight. These will only be required for around 4 weeks, and for anything longer than that, the next option is usually considered.
Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy Tubes (PEG Tubes)
A PEG tube is inserted into a hole in the stomach and provides direct access to the gut. Using this, liquid meals can be inserted and will cut out the esophagus altogether whilst also allowing the act of digestion and breaking down of the food to take place. This will require surgery and is only considered in extreme cases of dysphagia that are irreversible.
Surgery may be required if the issues with the swallowing are caused by throat narrowing or blockages, which may include growths or esophageal cancer. But this is reserved and is the last resort for those who have dysphagia due to these issues.