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Swallowing Difficulties in New Jersey

The Digestive Health & Nutrition Center has two convenient locations in Lawrenceville and Princeton, New Jersey where you can receive the exceptional care you deserve. Angela Merlo, MD is an experienced Gastroenterologist with particular expertise in diagnosing the causes of and treating swallowing disorders in adults and children.

What Is Dysphagia?

Dysphagia is the medical term for difficulty swallowing. Swallowing difficulties are divided into:

  • Difficulty in initiating a swallow when foods or liquids are in the mouth; and
  • Difficulty in propelling swallowed foods and liquids through the esophagus into the stomach

These two categories of swallowing difficulties produce different symptoms and are useful to Dr. Merlo as they have different underlying causes and require different treatments for remedy.

What Are the Symptoms of Swallowing Difficulties?

People with difficulty initiating a swallow may experience the following:

  • Coughing or choking spells while eating or drinking
  • Drooling
  • Regurgitation through the nose
  • Vocal changes during or after a meal

People with difficulty in propelling swallowed foods into the stomach may experience:

  • Chest pain
  • Heartburn
  • Indigestion

What Disorders Cause Swallowing Difficulties?

Common disorders causing difficulty in initiating a swallow are:

  • Infections
  • Muscular diseases that weaken the muscles involved in swallowing
  • Neurologic disorders such as strokes, Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson disease
  • Obstruction from cancers and polyps
  • Radiation injury

The sensation that swallowed foods or liquids do not readily pass into the stomach is sometimes from spasm and occurs in people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other functional disorders.  But, many disorders can cause the same sensation which is why the right diagnosis is crucial for remedy. Common disorders that can cause difficulty in emptying swallowed contents into the stomach are:

How Can I Be Diagnosed if I Have Swallowing Difficulties?

Dr. Merlo will first take a thorough history of all your symptoms. The details you provide regarding the duration of symptoms, specific foods and liquids that trigger your difficulty and the intermittent or progressive nature of your problem are all important to Dr. Merlo. Dr. Merlo may recommend a specialized radiograph called barium swallow but diagnosis is more commonly made on endoscopy. Dr. Merlo is highly proficient at performing endoscopy and performing associated procedures during endoscopy such as dilatation of strictures and removal of polyps. Dr. Merlo may recommend esophageal manometry if a disorder in esophageal motility is suspected.

If you are experiencing swallowing difficulties, contact the Digestive Health & Nutrition Center in Lawrenceville or Princeton, New Jersey. Dr. Merlo is expert at the diagnosis and treatment of swallowing disorders.