There are different treatments for various types of dysphagia. First, doctors and speech- language pathologists who test for and treat swallowing disorders use a variety of tests that allow them to look at the parts of the swallowing mechanism. One test, called a fiber optic laryngoscopy, allows the doctor to look down the throat with a lighted tube. Other tests, including video fluoroscopy, which takes videotapes of a patient swallowing, and ultrasound, which produces images of internal body organs, can painlessly take pictures of various stages of swallowing.
Once the cause of the dysphagia is found, surgery or medication may help. If treating the cause of the dysphagia does not help, the doctor may have the patient see a speech-language pathologist who is trained in testing and treating swallowing disorders. The speech-language pathologist will test the person’s ability to eat and drink and may teach the person new ways to swallow.
Treatment may involve muscle exercises to strengthen weak facial muscles or to improve coordination. For others, treatment may involve learning to eat in a special way. For example, some people may have to eat with their head turned to one side or looking straight ahead. Preparing food in a certain way or avoiding certain foods may help other people. For instance, those who cannot swallow liquids may need to add special thickeners to their drinks. Other people may have to avoid hot or cold foods or drinks.
For some, however, consuming foods and liquids by mouth may no longer be possible. These individuals must use other methods to nourish their bodies. Usually this involves a feeding system, such as a feeding tube, that bypasses the part of the swallowing mechanism that is not working normally.