Heartburn & Swallowing Disorders
Heartburn and swallowing difficulties are serious medical conditions that can severely lower the quality of your life and may lead to even worse troubles if left untreated. Our team can help ease your stress by expertly diagnosing and treating your disorder.
Types of Disorders
Hancock Health’s Heartburn and Swallow Center offers advanced diagnostic and treatment options for heartburn and swallowing disorders that include (but are not limited to):
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
GERD is when the door between the stomach and throat doesn’t work properly, causing stomach acid and food to come back up into the throat. This can lead to a burning feeling in the chest (heartburn), discomfort, and sour taste.
Oral dysphagia is a difficulty in swallowing that stems from problems in the mouth and throat. It can make it challenging to eat, drink, or swallow saliva. This condition might result from issues with muscle control or coordination in these areas, making swallowing uncomfortable or unsafe.
Pharyngeal or oropharyngeal dysphagia
Oropharyngeal dysphagia is a condition where there’s trouble swallowing due to problems in the throat and upper part of the esophagus. It can lead to difficulty moving food and liquids from the mouth to the stomach, causing choking, coughing, or discomfort. This condition often results from issues with muscle strength or coordination in the throat area.
Esophageal dysphagia is when there’s a problem with the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach. It can feel like food gets stuck in your chest or throat when you try to swallow. This happens because the muscles in the tube might not be working right or the tube itself could be narrow or blocked.
A hiatal hernia happens when a part of the stomach pushes up into the chest through a small opening in the diaphragm muscle. This can lead to symptoms like heartburn, chest pain, or trouble swallowing. While usually not very serious, it might cause discomfort and could sometimes require medical attention.
Treatments & Therapy
Our center performs various tests to determine symptoms’ underlying causes.
Diagnosis of Heartburn and Swallowing Disorders
To assess heartburn, one of our most innovative tests is EsoGuard, a DNA test that can screen for esophagitis, Barrett’s Esophagus, or esophageal cancer. This test can be conducted by sampling a patient’s esophageal cells while they visit our center.
If necessary, we can also conduct an upper endoscopy exam (EGD) that uses a camera to examine a patient’s esophagus, stomach, and duodenum, and more precisely determine symptoms’ causes.
To assess swallowing disorders, we conduct clinical evaluations, as well as two different types of x-rays. Videofluoroscopic swallowing studies (VFSS) allow us to view the oral and pharyngeal phases of swallowing, while esophagram tests (also known as “barium swallows”) help us examine a patient’s esophageal function.
We can also perform an esophageal manometry to determine whether the esophagus is working properly. This test is conducted with a thin tube containing pressure sensors, which measure esophageal performance from the nose to the stomach.
Treatment for Heartburn and Swallowing Disorders
Once a diagnosis is made, treatment varies according to a condition’s cause and type. Providers and patients will work together to determine which solution is most appropriate.
Treatments for heartburn may include:
- Laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication
- Transoral incisionless fundoplication (TIF)
Treatments for swallowing disorders may include:
- Therapy to strengthen weak muscles
- Learning new swallowing techniques
- Management through medication
- Anti-reflux surgery
- Speech and language therapy
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