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Old 01-04-2012, 07:20 PM   #1
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Question can't swallow liquids

I'm56 yrs old and for the past 8 weeks I have not been able to swallow liquids. I've always chewed my food into tiny bites and take forever to eat, but one day out of the blue I lost my ability to swallow liquids. It was like I forgot how. I could get small amounts down with a straw at first, then had to start buying frozen drinks and using a spoon to get it down. Now I have trouble with that and half of what I try to get down, dribbles out of my mouth. Just this past week I started having trouble with food. I seem to get a lot of thick saliva in my mouth when I try to eat so spit out more then i swallow. Last night I had three or four panic attacks because I felt like I couldn't even swallow my own saliva. I have seen a doctor who ordered a barium swallow. It came back normal, even though I only got about a quarter of the barium down me. Monday I go for a modified barium swallow. In the meantime my g.p. put me on an anxiety drug, chlonazepam, at a very low dose, 0.5 MG, once a day. This drug is doing nothing for me, so I'm upping the dose on my own. I've tried calling my doctor twice to ask about doing this, but he has not responded yet. And I'm at my wits end! I'm angry that he put me on this in the first place, before doing any tests to see if it is physical! But I'm desperate, which is why i started taking it. I have been thru a lot of stress over the past 2 yrs. In 2010 I lost my dad and a grandson. My youngest daughter left her abusive husband, and moved back home last oct, and since then her ex has sent us numerous death threats and we've had the police here more then a few times. My fear is that if this is mental, how do I fix it? I hate to say it, but I'd almost rather have something physical wrong with me, so a doctor could hopefully fix it, because I am at my wits end. This is consuming my life...I do not want to go out, all i want to do is sleep. The gastroenterologist who I saw, said it sounded more like a muscular or nerve thing...then he said I seemed to young to have MS or ALS...which, I looked into online and from what I read online, I'm not too young. I just want an answer, I'm tired of living in fear. If it is mental, I need a much stronger drug because I can't continue on like this! I read older blogs about people with similar problems, I'm hoping to hear back from some of them on how they're doing? By the way, I cannot afford to lose much weight, I'm 5'5" and weigh 109 lbs.

 
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Old 06-25-2012, 11:29 PM   #2
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Re: can't swallow liquids

I don't see any replies to your post, so am wondering how you're doing by now. What did your tests show? I had the whole battery of tests with videoscope, et al, but that was 1995. They told me my dysphagia was "psychogenic"; that I'm crosswired and am inhaling liquids. It's like my own body is fighting my desire to try and swallow because it knows something is wrong. I was first told by 2 out of 3 ENTs that I have a muscle uncoordination problem, but a neurologist did not concur. A speech therapist was no help. I understand about the spitting, too. That is the only way to be safe from choking that I can find, and it's always a last resort. No medication has ever helped me.

My swallowing waxes and wanes. It never becomes perfectly okay again, but it gets lots better, then something will happen to trigger another setback, and I have to wait that out and hope for things to get better again.

 
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Old 06-26-2012, 08:18 AM   #3
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Re: can't swallow liquids

Hi Dortopia! Thank you for asking about my swallowing problem. I am doing OK. Not great, not normal, but sooo much better then what I was! I had about every test imaginable done. The barium swallow, the modified barium swallow, an endoscopy, the test where they put the camera down your throat and take pictures of it (can't remember the name of that one), I was sent to a speech therapist, a swallowing clinic, had chest xrays, blood work, a CAT scan of my stomach. Every test I had done came back normal. I was so depressed and desperate that I wanted to roll over and die. I got to a point where I could not eat or drink anything and when my weight dropped down to 102 lbs, my doctor mentioned a feeding tube. I was in the ER twice for dehydration. On my own I went to an acupuncturist and a hynotist. I was sent to a psychiatrist and my meds were changed to prozac and lorezepam. I'm still taking these. I do not like taking them, but I will for as long as I have to if they are helping me get better. My diagnosis was stress. My psychiatrist thinks all my stress settles in my throat area. When I was able to start eating again, it would take me an hour to eat a soft boiled egg. It was so frustrating that it took everything in me to not give up. Ensure is what kept me alive for some time. I could drink it if my husband woke me from a deep sleep in the middle of the night. This is what really made my doctor believe this is all stress induced, the fact that I was able to drink with ease if awakened from a deep sleep but not at all during the day. Slowly but surely I was able to eat and drink more. I've put on 12 lbs since last Oct! I still cannot drink without a straw, I cannot swallow pills (all my meds are in liquid form) and I cannot eat certain textures. THere are very few meats I can eat and I can no longer eat the spicy foods I used to enjoy. Like you, my problem comes and goes, but i'm never perfect, able to eat and drink like I used to do. Seems that when any stress is affecting me, it gets worse. I think about it too much and it gets worse. My heart goes out to you, because believe me, I know how frustrating and scary it is! I quit seeing the accupuncturist but am still seeing the hypnotist. He has been a God send and has helped me immensely. Prayer has gotten me thru a lot of this too....I thank God each and every day for being able to swallow! I hope and pray that you're doing okay and that one day we'll both be completely better!

 
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Old 06-26-2012, 11:47 AM   #4
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Re: can't swallow liquids

Hi Sparklebelle,

I was in the ER numerous times for dehydration. My doctor wouldn't send me or subscribe IVs most of the time, so I would have to go through triage every time, and they would always say I needed the fluids. Sometimes they would give me double, and my potassium would usually be very low, too, so they would add that to the IVs. I used to take Boost a lot, but became allergic to some of the ingredients. I've found other things that work a little better for me, but sometimes have problems with those, too, because of food allergies.

I think mine is stress and grief, and they also think it's cellular memories from infancy, but it is triggered by certain things in particular. Interesting how you can do better in the night like that. I do the best first thing in the morning after a long night's sleep. My functional medicine doctor thinks I might have a crycopharyngeal spasm and wants me to try the muscle dilation treatment, and then if that helps, they would actually cut that muslce permanently. The problem I have with this theory is that if it was that muscle, wouldn't it always be the same, and not get better or worse? They also say people with that spasm always feel like they have a lump in their throats, but I don't have that.

I lost way too much weight, too, when this first started, and again another time or two when it flared up and was worse than usual. What helped me the most the first time was a naturopathic doctor treating me with a homeopathic remedy. The remedies would change from time to time, and I stopped taking them because the side effects would be too much to cope with. They would make something else flare up instead, sort of like a trade-off. I was also sent to a psychologist for hypnosis, but he didn't do me any good. He wanted me to do my own self-hypnosis, which didn't work for this. I could use that for other things, but not this.

I, too, carry my tension in my throat/ neck, and also around my solar plexus. At night when trying to relax, if I've had a stressful day, I keep getting what feels like punches in the stomach, which make me suddenly exhale all my air, and gasp for more air. It wakes me up when it's really bad.

I, too, hope we can get beyond this and be normal again. I have other chronic illnesses, and because of those and this all put together, I have no social life, and cannot even go on dates.

Last edited by Dortopia; 06-26-2012 at 11:55 AM.

 
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Old 06-26-2012, 03:30 PM   #5
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Re: can't swallow liquids

Dortopia, I really do feel for you. When you mentioned a doctor saying something about crossed wires, it brought back to me that my doctor had said this several times to me. He was as frustrated as I was, because there was nothing physically wrong, it was hard for him to see me suffer the way I was. I just want to be able to drink and eat again without even thinking about it. What you said about that muscle makes sense to me too, that if that were the problem, it'd be ongoing all the time. I had a period where I did best drinking in the early morning too. That was before I had to start getting up in the middle of the night for the five ensures I'd suck down. Some background on myself. I was sexually abused as a child, and almost choked twice in my childhood. Once on a jawbreaker and once on an ice cube. Not even sure if these could have had any thing to do with my swallowing probs now? In 2010 I lost my dad in Jan and we lost a grandson in Nov. In late oct of that year our youngest daughter moved back home. She was in an abusive relationship for about 13 yrs. Her nose had been broken and Lord knows what else this monster did to her. He started sending us death threats, slit our tires and poured sugar into our gas tank. He made our lives a living hell and I blame him for about 99% of my swallowing problems. The stress he put us thru was unbelievable. He spent the last two months in jail and is just getting out today. He's to move to va and be on probation for 30 months there. He's not to come near any of us or even contact us, or he goes back to jail. But this guy is a sociopath, so who knows what he's going to do next? I bought a gun (and I'm anti gun) and had a security system put in our home. I'm a lot disgusted with the judge who was on the case right now. I've lost a lot of faith in our judicial system too. I'm just hoping that this doesn't cause me to regress. I feel like i've come so far, yet at times, I get discouraged because all I want to do is be normal again. To be able to eat and drink whatever I want whenever I want without even thinking about it or choking. This is my prayer for me and for you! Take care and please keep me updated on how you're doing! Shelley

 
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Old 06-26-2012, 03:34 PM   #6
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Re: can't swallow liquids

Dortopia, I really do feel for you. When you mentioned a doctor saying something about crossed wires, it brought back to me that my doctor had said this several times to me. He was as frustrated as I was, because there was nothing physically wrong, it was hard for him to see me suffer the way I was. I just want to be able to drink and eat again without even thinking about it. What you said about that muscle makes sense to me too, that if that were the problem, it'd be ongoing all the time. I had a period where I did best drinking in the early morning too. That was before I had to start getting up in the middle of the night for the five ensures I'd suck down. Some background on myself. I was sexually abused as a child, and almost choked twice in my childhood. Once on a jawbreaker and once on an ice cube. Not even sure if these could have had any thing to do with my swallowing probs now? In 2010 I lost my dad in Jan and we lost a grandson in Nov. In late oct of that year our youngest daughter moved back home. She was in an abusive relationship for about 13 yrs. Her nose had been broken and Lord knows what else this monster did to her. He started sending us death threats, slit our tires and poured sugar into our gas tank. He made our lives a living hell and I blame him for about 99% of my swallowing problems. The stress he put us thru was unbelievable. He spent the last two months in jail and is just getting out today. He's to move to va and be on probation for 30 months there. He's not to come near any of us or even contact us, or he goes back to jail. But this guy is a sociopath, so who knows what he's going to do next? I bought a gun (and I'm anti gun) and had a security system put in our home. I'm a lot disgusted with the judge who was on the case right now. I've lost a lot of faith in our judicial system too. I'm just hoping that this doesn't cause me to regress. I feel like i've come so far, yet at times, I get discouraged because all I want to do is be normal again. To be able to eat and drink whatever I want whenever I want without even thinking about it or choking. This is my prayer for me and for you! Take care and please keep me updated on how you're doing! Shelley

Last edited by hb-mod; 08-04-2012 at 06:51 AM.

 
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Old 06-26-2012, 03:49 PM   #7
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Re: can't swallow liquids

Hi Shelley,

I really feel for you, too, and am so sorry for what you've been through. I've been told that I, too, was sexually abused as an infant, but it would be pre-verbal, so it would be stored in my cells instead of my memory. I also got an ice cube stuck in my throat when I was a child, and it scared me so badly, I never tried to learn to swallow pills whole. I have never been able to do that, even before the swallowing went bad. I drank Boost from a "slush mug" for a long time when this first started happening, in order to try and not lose so much weight. I became allergic to so many things I had to stop using Boost, but have found some alternatives for when I need them. I would love to be able to eat and drink anything, too, without consciously thinking about it, and making sure I follow the rules for "safe swallowing", and just take it for granted like other people do, and like I used to do.

I've been controlled and abused by a psychopath in the family almost all my life. It actually went from one neurotic controller to another psychopathic controller, and I've been struggling to be free of this all my life, and I'm in my 60s now. I was married to an alcoholic who was abusive, too, so it just never lets up for me. Who knows by now what of all of these things has caused my swallowing problem, if maybe all of them combined. I've also been in 5 terrible car accidents, always caused by a drunk driver running a red light. I had a head injury in one of them that left a hemorrhage by my left eye that had to be monitored by an opthalmologist for a long time. Any time I hit my head, it can come open again and has to be monitored more. There are so many possibilities as to what could be causing all this.

Yes, let's stay in touch, and maybe if one of us finds some help, it can give the other one more courage to keep trying. I think a lot of massaging to my neck and throat area would be helpful, but that's a whole big issue of its own.

Dorie

 
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Old 06-29-2012, 03:22 PM   #8
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Re: can't swallow liquids

You have symptoms highly suggestive of a stricture in the esophagus and need to have a scope of the esophagus. The most common stricture occurs at the sphincter at the top of stomach. It is caused by scarring usually from reflux of acid from the stomach up into the esophagus. The narrowing can get smaller than a pencil, not allowing food or even fluids to get through. The saliva builds up above the stricture and you have to spit it out. This can be corrected by stretching the sphincter at the time of the scope, and you will get immediate relief. Things like tumors can cause similar symptoms, so it is important to rule that out with a scope. Anything abnormal seen can be biopsied. This has to be done by a gastroenterologist, so please ask your Dr for a referral. Meds to prevent acid reflux can be taken to prevent this from recurring, but sometimes the stretching has to be done periodically if it tightens again. If none of this is the case, I would see a neurologist to see if there is a neurological problem with your swallowing mechanism and reflexes.

Last edited by ladybud; 06-29-2012 at 03:24 PM. Reason: forgot something

 
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Old 06-29-2012, 03:40 PM   #9
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Re: can't swallow liquids

Hi Dorie! I think i accidentally sent you back the last response you sent to me. I am not good with computers. I can work all the picture sites (I'm a photographer) and fb and gmail, but that's about it! I am so sorry to hear of all you have been thru. I believe our problems stem from some or maybe all of what we've had to deal with thruout our lives. When did your swallowing problem first come on? Mine did last Oct. Actually I was having trouble eating (I've always taken small bites and i've always been the last one done, i eat very slow), but it seemed to be getting worse over last summer. Then out of the blue one day in Oct I remember looking at a glass of soda that i had in front of me and thinking "What if i can't drink that".....and as weird as it sounds, at that very minute i felt like a bolt of electricity went thru me and from that point on I was unable to drink liquids in a normal way. I was able to drink from a straw for awhile and then only slushy drinks with a spoon. Then nothing at all unless I was awakened from a deep sleep and would drink my ensures. The food started getting worse then too....when it got to where I could no longer eat anything and drink only the ensures I was so hungry and thirsty that I wanted to die. I remember talking to my mom on the phone and telling her I just didn't have the fight in me anymore. I know she prayed a lot for me, but she was so worried by this point that she sent my brother over (they live in ohio and we live in illinois) to check up on me and see if his being here wouldn't help me eat a little more. I've always been very close to him. When he was here I rejoiced at being able to eat my first dish of mac and cheese! I was counting calories and most days would eat a poached egg on toast, it would take me over an hour to get it down, but I'd do it! I don't know when my start to recovery really took off but I do know that the ENT doctor I saw who did the test where they put a camera down your throat was a part of my road to recovery. He took his time with me and then gave me applesauce and pudding to eat in front of him. He told me ways to make it go down easier and he was the first doctor to say "there is NOTHING wrong with your swallowing..you are NOT going to choke"...he said it was like i had developed an adversion to swallowing. Just hearing him say I was not going to choke started my recovery. It was very slow, and I had to work hard at eating any little thing. IT would have been so much easier to give up. My husband was at his wits end. He wanted to help me so badly but knew there was nothing he could do. I had to do this on my OWN. The first hynotist that I saw was not much help, so I tried a second one and he has been a God send! He really is a God send..he's a baptist pastor also! He has me wear headphones that play soft music in the background and he speaks to me thru a microphone. He can get me in a trance in no time and by the time I leave his office I am so relaxed that I feel like I've just had an hour nap! I swear, he's better then any massage you could ever get! Now I'm at a point where I can drink most anytime, but not in a normal way. At times I drink in a way that my son calls "gerbal drinking"!! I use a straw and it may take me six or seven times of sucking up the liquid and then backwashing it into the cup, before I get the courage to actually drink a swallow down! When I do i'm good for about four more swallows and the process starts all over again. It's not a pleasant sight, but at my age (57) and with what all i've been thru with this, I really don't let it bother me. I know my problem is mental but i just don't know how to fix it completely. I have to have my mind set so it's almost empty...because if i think about swallowing before i take a drink, i can't do it normally. I find that if i'm busy, if my kids and their families are over visiting, I have an easier time swallowing, because my mind is not on what I"m doing as much! The december after this started, two months later, my husband took me on a cruise hoping it would help. We had a wonderful time, but it was horrible not being able to eat all that food and not being able to drink! I love beer and have not had one since last oct, I can't mix liquor with the meds i'm on. My goal is to get off them and still be able to eat and drink like i now am. I know it's not normal yet, but i'm definately getting enough liquids and solids in me. I've gained about 12 lbs and actually feel TOO heavy now! My gp thought I had too much stress come on all at once and my body just could not take anymore and this is the way it reacted to it. Instead of a full fledged nervous breakdown, i forgot how to swallow. He told me he's known of people who have gone blind from stress. They really can see, but in their mind they cannot. And of people who have limbs go numb...no physical reason as to why, it's all mental. It's scary to think of how much power we have in our brains! I have to believe that if I had the power to unlearn something that should be a natural instinct, that I have the power to relearn it! I also pray a lot and believe in the power of prayer! Anyway, I hope you had a good day and that you'll keep in touch! I'm keeping you in my prayers! btw...do you mind my asking what state you live in? Like i said, we live in illinois. Shelley

 
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Old 06-29-2012, 06:00 PM   #10
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Re: can't swallow liquids

Hi Ladybug! Love your name, my dad made up a poem about me one time where he called me ladybug! I don't know if you're talking to me or Dorie about the stricture, but I already had an endoscopy done and it came back clear aside from some reflux which I take nexium for. Belive it or not, but they have it in a powder form that when water is added to it, it sets to a thickened liquid. I am pretty sure without a doubt that mine is stress related. Doctor said my wires got crossed from all the stress I had been thru and this is how it came out in me. Not fun, but I'm on the road to recovery and I thank God for this every day!
Shelley

 
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Old 07-01-2012, 11:13 PM   #11
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Re: can't swallow liquids

Hi Shelley,

Mine started in 1995, and has been better and worse, better and worse, going around in circles. It seems certain things I see, hear or read will trigger something inside, like retraumatizing whatever is causing this.

I've had soooo many episodes of strangling on liquids, that no doctor anywhere would ever be able to convince me I'm not going to choke. I know otherwise. And besides, I've already been diagnosed as "inhaling liquids". I, too, have to let things backwash into the cup or glass again if I drink thin liquids the regular way, and for that reason, a straw has always been too messy. It runs down the outside of the straw and all over my hand!

I've learned that using a spoon helps me keep just the right amount at a time going in, and I can continue to keep my head forward and chin tucked under. If I was drinking from a glass and had to tip my head back further and further, the more the glass became emptier, I would be choking all the time. I learned over time to eat very high fat, high calorie food, so when my swallowing is better - though never really 'normal' - I feel that I gain too much weight again, too.

For a long time I used Thick-It, which helped a lot, but then I became allergic. I can't have preservatives, or any chemicals in my food, so I have to eat all organic. It's just so many things to keep track of and take care of all the time. They used to tell me to eat lots and lots of cheese, butter and ice cream, in order to get the calories in. I would try to tell them if I could eat "lots and lots" of anything, I could eat the right food again. When I would turn up so low on potassium, they'd say to eat 6 bananas a day, but I would have to continually remind them I couldn't swallow well enough to even eat one banana. If I could eat 6 of them, I could be eating a bunch of other food, too, and wouldn't have a swallowing problem.

I live in Oregon, but have lived in Illinois - it was during the 1970s. I'm glad you're getting so much help so early-on. I never really have, and have had to learn to do better somehow on my own. That's how I've learned that certain things trigger it into getting worse. What might have happened with me is that I had agoraphobia/ panic disorder, and went through years of help for that, and just when I wasn't having spontaneous panic attacks any longer, and was beginning to drive again, voila', that's when I started having trouble swallowing, so I figured it was a conversion disorder. If there is a certain tramatic event from my past that has set me up for this, it needs to manifest somehow, and if it can't do so one way, it will another way. I've learned that the more I try to stop the symptoms, and then succeed in doing so, the next symptoms are even worse. For instance, I would say having this swallowing disorder is much worse than not driving. Because of this and my allergies, I have zero social life anymore.

I'll be glad to hear how you're coming along, so keep in touch.

Dorie

Last edited by Dortopia; 07-01-2012 at 11:14 PM.

 
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Old 07-03-2012, 05:33 PM   #12
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Re: can't swallow liquids

Hi Ladybug,

I only just now noticed your post for some reason. I, too, have had all those tests, and know for sure I don't have acid reflux, or I would be able to feel the burning.

This stricture you're talking about, though, is that the crycopharyngeal muscle my doctor told me about, that he thinks is in a spasm? Wouldn't it always stay the same, and not get better and worse? I've read that some people do get relief when the muscle is dilated or severed, but why is the muscle there to begin with? Don't we need it for something? I'd hate to go through all of that just to have it retraumatize me but not fix anything, and if I get another conversion, it would only be worse with whatever the next symptom is.

It must not be a tumor, because I've had this for 17 years now, so something would have shown up in that case, and a neurologist blew me off and was no help at all.

 
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Old 07-04-2012, 02:14 AM   #13
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Re: can't swallow liquids

The stricture I am referring to is a "Schotsky's ring" at the junction of the stomach and esophagus. It is definietly possible to have reflux of stomach acids into the lower esophagus that causes no symptoms. If your Dr. thinks you have cricopharyngeal muscle spasm, have you tried a medicine called hyoscyamine, that is a smooth muscle relaxant? (Levsin is brand name). It is taken 20-30 minutes before eating/drinking and may help. It is sublingual (melts and absorbs under tongue.) That muscle is much higher up near throat. Cold liquids may make spasm worse, so stick to warm or room temp. GERD may also cause this spasm and some people respond to PPIs and other GERD treatments.

 
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Old 07-05-2012, 12:20 AM   #14
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Re: can't swallow liquids

I hope you're doing okay, Shelley.

Last edited by Dortopia; 07-05-2012 at 12:23 AM.

 
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Old 07-16-2012, 12:00 PM   #15
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Re: can't swallow liquids

For anyone who isn't familiar with what we're talking about here, our type of dysphagia is very different from most. Nothing gets stuck in our throat or anywhere else when we swallow. It's more a case of it staying stuck in our mouths because the swallowing reflex will not kick in when it normally should. It often causes us to either need to spit out the food or liquid in our mouths so we don't choke on it, or we will inhale it when we have to take a breath. In my own case, once I can and do swallow, it goes down readily and smoothly. It is not a stricture in the throat, but more likely in the subconscious mind.

There's no lump, no tightness, nothing sticking - just the swallowing mechanism not functioning properly. For me personally, I've been told mine is a "bizarre anxiety disorder" that will flare up when I'm going through more things than usual, or more than I can handle, which is happening right now, and I'm having a bad relapse.

Mine has been called "psychogenic", yet there is a doctor who wants me to be checked out about the crycopharangeal muscle, but I don't have the listed symptoms, one of which is a lump in the throat. I may go ahead and go to the GI doctor just to rule it out so this doctor will stop saying this could be it. Or I may find out he's right, but it doesn't seem likely.

 
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