When It's Hard to Swallow

Dysphagia affects one in 10 people over age 50

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TUESDAY, March 2, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- If you have trouble swallowing food, beverages or even saliva, you may have dysphagia.

It's a common medical condition, affecting about one in 10 people over age 50, that occurs when something goes wrong at any stage of the swallowing process, says an article in the February issue of the Mayo Clinic Health Letter.

Some people with dysphagia have difficulty starting to swallow while others can start swallowing but get the feeling that food gets stuck as it's going down.

Dysphagia can be caused by medical conditions -- including Parkinson's disease, tumors and acid reflus -- that damage or weaken the nerves and muscles that control swallowing.

If you experience slight or occasional dysphagia, it doesn't mean you have a serious medical problem. But the Mayo Clinic Health Letter says it's a good idea to see your doctor if you have difficulties swallowing.

Treatment to correct the problem depends on the cause. Treatment options include diet changes, surgery, medication and exercises to strengthen swallowing muscles.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about swallowing disorders.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, news release, February 2004

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