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Dysphagia Specialist

Marc David Makhani, MD -  - Gastroenterologist

LA Digestive Health and Wellness

Marc David Makhani, MD

Gastroenterologist located in Cedars-Sinai Medical Towers, Los Angeles, CA

At LA Digestive Health and Wellness in Los Angeles, California, Marc David Makhani, MD uses his expertise in gastroenterology to aid patients experiencing dysphagia, an often painful throat condition that may require serious medical attention and treatment. Dr. Makhani’s treatment methods are tailored to each patient, depending on their condition’s specific causes. At the first sign of swallowing issues, it is important to book an appointment with Dr. Makhani, because living with dysphagia can ultimately affect your health by leaving you dehydrated and malnourished.

Dysphagia Q & A

What is dysphagia?

Dysphagia refers to swallowing disorders that vary in severity depending on the cause. In general, it makes swallowing harder, which increases the time and effort it takes for food and liquids to travel from your mouth to your stomach. Dysphagia is often painful, in some instances making swallowing impossible.

Dysphagia can be caused by muscle or nerve problems, and is more common in babies and the elderly than other age groups. 

The three general types of dysphagia are: 

High Dysphagia (Oral Dysphagia) — This may be caused by problems chewing food, post-stroke tongue weakness or problems transporting food from the mouth. The issue is in the mouth. 

Pharyngeal Dysphagia — This may be caused by a neurological problem that affects the nerves (such as a stroke or Parkinson's disease). The issue is in the throat. 

Low Dysphagia (Esophageal Dysphagia) — This may be caused by irritation or a blockage and a surgery may be required. The issue is in the esophagus. 

What are symptoms of dysphagia?

The defining symptom of dysphagia is difficulty in swallowing. If that symptom persists or you’re experiencing pain, regurgitation, or weight loss, your case may indicate a serious medical condition that requires professional treatment. Other indicators of dysphagia include:

  • Inability to swallow
  • The sensation of food getting stuck in your throat, chest, or behind your breastbone (sternum)
  • Drooling
  • Hoarse voice
  • Bringing food back up (regurgitation)
  • Frequent heartburn
  • Food or stomach acid back up into your throat
  • Unexpectedly losing weight
  • Coughing or gagging when swallowing
  • Cutting food into smaller pieces or avoiding certain foods because of trouble swallowing

What causes dysphagia?

Swallowing is a complex process that’s prone to various interferences. While the cause can’t always be identified, there are two conditions that typically induce dysphagia. The first is esophageal dysphagia, which refers to the sensation of food getting stuck in the base of your throat or chest when you start to swallow.

The second condition is oropharyngeal dysphagia, which results from weakened throat muscles. This affects the physical movement of food or drinks from your mouth to your throat and esophagus. You may gag, choke, or regurgitate by reflex when you start to swallow (all of which are major indicators of oropharyngeal dysphagia).

Eating slowly or chewing your food thoroughly can reduce the risk of occasional difficulty swallowing, but early detection and proper treatment is crucial for impeding further damage to your esophagus.

How is dysphagia treated?

Dr. Makhani thoroughly evaluates each case to deliver the proper treatment method for the patient. There are many reasons why dysphagia can occur, so treatment depends on the underlying cause. Treatments can range from swallowing exercises for oropharyngeal dysphagia to surgery for esophageal dysphagia. If your dysphagia prevents you from eating and drinking adequately, you’ll either be prescribed a liquid diet or start using a feeding tube.