The woman who woke up and found she couldn't swallow

Today we will tell the story of Samantha, a woman of just 39 who woke up one morning with the surprise of not being able to swallow.

In Samantha's case, it took up to three and a half years for her to go through different medical appointments until she was able to regain her ability to swallow and eat normally. Luckily, in Spain it doesn't take that long nowadays, but a few years ago it might take a little longer than now.

The day Samantha got up and found that she couldn't swallow the scare was terrific, and possibly it would be for anyone who suffered something similar. Dying choked on breakfast toast is not too common, but if your throat muscles decide not to work, something is clearly wrong. But why did this happen to Samantha? can it happen to anyone?

Dysphagia, or the curse of not being able to swallow

What happened to Samantha, and today many individuals suffer, is called dysphagia, a situation that can be both a disease in itself and a symptom of something else. Those who suffer this curse of not being able to swallow they have a tendency to drown easily, or to do what in medicine we call aspirations, where part of the food does not pass to the stomach but to the lungs, leading to serious respiratory infections such as pneumonia.

On the other hand there are serious dysphagias, where the fact of not being able to swallow ends up involving even dehydration or malnutrition, since liquids and solid foods do not get where they should, the stomach. In addition, to all this we must add the emotional and psychological damage that a person can suffer when realizing that not being able to swallow has many drawbacks on a daily basis: Radical diet changes, not being able to go to lunch or dinner with family or friends

In Samantha's case, it took up to 6 months for her and her husband to know that their problem had its own name and was not simply anxiety, as they had originally told them: dysphagia.

Who does dysphagia usually affect?

The tendency is that the fact of not being able to swallow affects more the old people, 45% of which suffer from various levels of dysphagia (reaching 65% if they live in residences). This has its logic, because with age our muscles generally weaken, and in order to swallow we need up to 25 different muscles.

45% of the elderly suffer from swallowing problems or dysphagia, reaching 65% if they live in residences

On the other hand, there are other people with problems to swallow such as those affected by a ictus or by neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Multiple Sclerosis and others. In some cases, the known Gastro-Esophageal Reflux It also ends up causing discomfort to swallow, becoming serious if not controlled with the proper medication.

How are swallowing problems or dysphagia identified?

The first step is to be aware of the problem, that something strange is happening, and to immediately contact our family doctor or family doctor. After a correct diagnosis, if the problem is not visible by the basic consultation methods and you need to see further, we will be referred to the specialist in otorhinolaryngology.


Here comes the uncomfortable part, because to verify the origin that has triggered not being able to swallow, tests must be carried out, and in this case flexible tubes (such as the laryngoscope or fibroscope). They are inserted through the nose to visualize both the entrance to the esophagus and the trachea, and in some cases it is necessary to examine the entire esophagus with a longer endoscope. No, it is not comfortable, but it is necessary.

The subsequent two-thirds of Samantha's tongue were as weak as those of a 90-year-old

If you still cannot visualize the problem to swallow, calls will be made swallowing tests together with the use of the endoscope, to see how our muscles react to different densities of food.

In Samantha's case, after conducting these tests, it was concluded that the subsequent two-thirds of her language was as weak as that of a 90-year-old person.

Is there a treatment or solution for dysphagia?

To be able to swallow normally, or at least improve the symptoms of dysphagia, there are several types of treatments. Unfortunately, the problem is not usually completely cured, just as happened to the protagonist of our story today. There are up to 4 types of treatment categories.

First, the medical or surgical treatments. If the problem to be able to swallow is structural (due to the shape of our throat or some muscular obstacle), there are operations as a solution; In other cases, there are medications that trigger dysphagia, and you just have to identify and remove them, thus solving the problem.

Second, we have the physical modifications, where swallowing posture is important. In these cases we will be trained to acquire certain postures at mealtime and they will also give us some exercises to try to strengthen the muscles of our throat and jaw.

Third, the swallowing modifications: We must cut the food into small pieces, which are appetizing and attractive to the eye (as dysphagia often leads to loss of taste and smell); It is also advisable to have liquid on hand to help swallow and, above all, have plenty of time and tranquility to eat.

Fourth, to finish, we have the calls power modifications: Liquids should be expected to prevent choking, avoid acidic foods, stimulate appetite with colorful foods, and adequately crush or soften solid foods so that less chewing and tongue force is required to consume them.

Today Samantha has improved a lot, but despite everything, she still has difficulty swallowing. The cause? As in his case, on many occasions it is unknown.

More information | Dysphagia Online.