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Posts for: April, 2020

By Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease, LLC
April 15, 2020
Category: Gastroenterology
Tags: Dysphagia  

If you are experiencing difficulty swallowing this a known as dysphagia, a symptom that often indicates that there is a problem within the esophagus or throat. While dysphagia is more common in older adults and infants, this problem can happen to anyone. You may be dealing with dysphagia if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Trouble swallowing
  • Feeling as if food is stuck in your throat
  • Persistent choking or gagging whenever eating or drinking
  • Regurgitation (when food travels back up into the throat)
  • Heartburn or acid reflux (a burning sensation in the chest)
  • Vocal changes (e.g. hoarseness)
  • Pain with swallowing
  • Sudden weight loss

Causes of Dysphagia

There are certain conditions that affect the muscles, nerves, throat, or esophagus that can make it more difficult to swallow foods and drinks. Common causes include:

  • Esophageal spasms
  • Nervous system disorders (e.g. multiple sclerosis; Parkinson’s disease)
  • Scleroderma
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Esophagitis
  • Diverticula

Diagnosing and Treating Dysphagia

If you are having recurring or persistent painful or difficulty swallowing it’s important that you see a gastroenterologist to find out what’s going on. Your doctor will go through your medical history, asking specific questions surrounding the issues you are dealing with. From there, certain tests will be performed to diagnose dysphagia. These tests include:

  • A barium or traditional X-ray
  • Fluoroscopy
  • Laryngoscopy
  • Esophagoscopy
  • pH monitoring (to measure the amount of acid in the stomach)

Along with providing a diagnosis, it’s important for your GI doctor to be able to pinpoint the root cause of your dysphagia. The cause will determine the type of treatments you receive. Common treatment options include:

  • Altering your eating habits and avoiding certain foods
  • An endoscopy to remove anything lodged in the throat
  • Exercises to strengthen and improve the muscles of the throat and esophagus
  • Medication to control heartburn, esophagitis, or GERD
  • Surgery to remove blockages

The cause of your dysphagia will also determine the prognosis. For example, those whose dysphagia is caused by acid reflux, GERD, or esophageal infections may recover completely from their condition with medication. Of course, chronic dysphagia can also be properly managed through regular monitoring and care from a gastrointestinal specialist.

If you or someone you love is having difficulty swallowing a gastroenterologist can determine the cause of your symptoms quickly. Don’t ignore swallowing problems. Turn to a doctor as soon as possible to find out what’s going on.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, colon or colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer that causes death in the U.S. The good news is that colon cancer can be prevented through early screening and prompt treatment.

Here at the Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease Clinic, our gastroenterologists, Dr. Daryl McClendon, Dr. Austin Nelson, and Dr. Jeffrey Molloy, use various colon cancer screening tests to pinpoint precancerous polyps before they become cancer. We offer these tests at our Eagle River and Anchorage, AK, locations. To determine whether you need colon cancer screening, you first need to know what it is.

What Do Colon Cancer Screening Tests Do?

In most cases, colon cancer develops from abnormal precancerous growths or polyps in the rectum or colon. Colon cancer screening tests are capable of finding these precancerous growths so that doctors can remove them prior to them turning into actual cancer. These tests can likewise identify cancer in its earliest stages when treatment will be most effective.

Screening Guidelines for Colorectal Cancer

Approximately 90% of new colon cancer cases occur in individuals who are 50 years old and older. That being said, regular screenings starting at 50 years old is key to colon cancer prevention. According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, adults must be screened for colon cancer at age 50 to 75. For individuals who are between the ages of 76 and 85, they should ask their doctor for specific recommendations. Aside from colonoscopy, the USPSTF also recommends screening tests such as stool tests, CT colonography, and flexible sigmoidoscopy.

When Should I Start Getting Colon Cancer Screenings?

In general, it’s best to start screenings when you turn 50 and continue to receive yearly screenings until you’re 75. However, you might have to be screened earlier than 50 years old if:

  • You’ve had colon cancer or colorectal polyps
  • You have a close relative with a history of colon cancer
  • You suffer from an inflammatory bowel disease like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
  • You have a hereditary disease like non-polyposis colon cancer or familial adenomatous polyposis

If you have an elevated risk of developing colon cancer, talk to our gastroenterologist in our Eagle River or Anchorage, AK, office to find out when to start screening, how often you should be screened, and which screening tests are best for your case.

Concerned About Colon Cancer? Talk to Us

Dial (907) 569-1333 to set your appointment with one of our gastroenterologists, Dr. Daryl McClendon, Dr. Austin Nelson, or Dr. Jeffrey Molloy, here at the Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease Clinic. You can choose between our Eagle River and Anchorage, AK, locations.