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Conditions We Treat: Dysphagia

Swallowing is a complex process that involves the mouth, the throat and the esophagus. If you have a problem with any of these organs during swallowing, you may have dysphagia. Dysphagia can be dangerous and should be evaluated and treated by an expert.

Dysphagia Treatment: Why Choose Johns Hopkins

A speech-language therapist conducting a swallow test on a patient

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Dysphagia Treatment Options

Because several organs are involved in the swallowing process, dysphagia treatment will depend on where the problem occurs. Causes of dysphagia may also vary. Dysphagia treatment options may include:

  • Medications that help control an underlying neurologic condition, such as multiple sclerosis or myositis. Medications can also be used to relax certain muscles.
  • Diet changes that help reduce the risk of swallowing difficulties.
  • Speech-language therapy that helps retrain and strengthen the muscles affected by dysphagia.
  • Botox injections that help calm the over-reacting muscles that prevent food from entering the stomach.
  • Dilation, a stretching procedure that can help widen certain passages in the throat to help the food pass.

Surgery is sometimes necessary to physically alter the muscles that hinder swallowing. Your rehabilitation physician will discuss these and other treatments with you before making a recommendation.

Our Dysphagia Specialists

Photo of Dr. Marlis Gonzalez-Fernandez, M.D., Ph.D.

Gonzalez-Fernandez, Marlis, M.D., Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Vice Chair, Clinical Operations, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Managing Director, Outpatient Operations, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Expertise, Disease and Conditions: Amputee Rehabilitation, Botulinum Toxin Injections, Dysphagia, Dysphagia Evaluation, Neuro Rehabilitation, Orthotics, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Prosthetics, Rehabilitation, Spasticity Management, Speech and Language Disorders After Stroke, Swallowing Disorders
 

Speech-language therapists

An illustration of a water swallow test

Water Swallow Test Proves to Be Most Sensitive for Dysphagia

“Identifying dysphagia early can reduce mortality and costs,” says Martin Brodsky, a swallowing disorders researcher. “But we need an accurate screening test.”

In collaboration with other researchers, Dr. Brodsky and Dr. Gonzalez-Fernandez conducted a review of literature evaluating water swallow tests. The team came to the conclusion that this test is one of the most accurate and easiest to implement diagnostic metrics for dysphagia.

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