Dysphagia is a medical condition which is characterized by difficulty with swallowing, wherein much more effort is needed than usual to accomplish the movement of food from mouth to stomach. It is most often caused by nerve or muscle problems, and dysphagia can be uncomfortable at times, or sometimes even painful.
It generally afflicts babies and older people more than any other grouping of people, although it can trouble persons of literally any age group at all. There are a number of causes of dysphagia, and when it only happens occasionally, there usually isn’t any serious problem underlying the swallowing difficulty.
However, when it happens that dysphagia occurs with greater regularity, that’s a situation which should be brought to the attention of the family doctor. Treatments recommended by your doctor will depend on what the underlying cause of the dysphagia is.
What Exactly is Dysphagia?
Whenever you take a swallow, there are several different muscles and nerves which participate in the process, and it is considerably more complex than you might think. Any disruption to the sequence of events which is necessary in the swallowing process can result in dysphagia.
Oral dysphagia is the type which is attributable to a problem situated in the mouth, and that can be triggered by tongue weakness following a stroke event, some kind of difficulty with chewing, or even problems with the transportation of food to the stomach. Pharyngeal dysphagia is characterized by some kind of disruption to the swallowing process which is centered in the throat. This kind of dysphagia is generally caused by some type of neurological problem affecting people’s nerves, and it is very common in conditions like stroke, Parkinson’s disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Esophageal dysphagia is the type which is situated somewhere in the esophagus, and it is usually triggered by some kind of irritation or blockage in that area. It happens very frequently that a surgical solution is necessary to resolve esophageal dysphagia.
It should be borne in mind that pain in swallowing, which is known as odynophagia, is a very different problem than dysphagia, although it happens frequently enough that the same person will be afflicted by both at the same time.
Common Causes of Dysphagia
As can be seen below, there are a wide variety of causes for dysphagia, and in some cases, more than one of the conditions described are contributors to the problem:
- myasthenia gravis – voluntary control muscles become weak and tired because of a problem with how nerves produce muscle contraction
- multiple sclerosis – this condition is caused by the central nervous system coming under attack from the immune system
- amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – this is an incurable form of progressive neurodegeneration, in which over a period of time brain and spinal nerves lose function
- cleft lip and palate – these are abnormal facial developments which are caused by incomplete fusion of head bones
- eosinophilic esophagitis – this is characterized by elevated levels of white blood cells in the esophagus, which grow in at uncontrolled rate, and attack the gastrointestinal system
- diffuse spasm – esophagus muscles contract in an eccentric manner
- achalasia – the lower esophageal muscle cannot sufficiently relax to allow the passage of food to stomach
- esophageal ring – some portion of the esophagus narrows down, thus preventing the passage of solid foods
- Parkinson’s disease – a gradually progressive degenerative disorder which degrades a patient’s motor skills
- stroke – in this medical condition, brain cells die off because there is insufficient oxygen supply to the brain
- radiation – patients who have previously undergone radiation treatments in the area of the neck or head will sometimes develop difficulty swallowing.
Treatment for Dysphagia
The treatment for dysphagia will depend on whether it is characterized as high dysphagia or low dysphagia. In the case of high dysphagia, swallowing therapy may be recommended, and this will be carried out with the assistance of a language and speech therapist. The patient is helped to learn alternate ways of proper swallowing, and exercises are engaged in regularly toward that end.
At the same time, the patient is put on a diet which makes swallowing easier, while still providing all the necessary nutritional benefits. In cases where a patient is at risk of malnutrition, dehydration, or pneumonia, they may have to be fed through a nasal tube. In situations where this is the recommended process, the tube will be surgically implanted directly in the stomach, and will be passed through a tiny abdominal incision.
When low dysphagia is diagnosed, it would generally be necessary for some kind of surgical intervention. In cases where the esophagus is constricted for some reason and must be widened, a tiny balloon is slowly inserted and inflated until the passageway has become dilated, after which the balloon would again be extracted.
In cases where the muscles of the esophagus have become stiff, Botox is sometimes recommended because it is a toxin which has the effect of paralyzing the stiff muscle, thereby minimizing any constriction which has taken place.
In the event of dysphagia being caused by cancer, a patient would always be referred to an oncologist, and a program of treatment would generally involve surgical remover removal of the cyst or tumor which has been identified.
At the end of every spring time, as school ends and the prospect of summer starts appealing to youngsters, families begin to make plans for going to camp, having fun at the local beach, and possibly even planning a nice family vacation. However, for children who have to deal with tonsils that have become enlarged, or persistent bouts of tonsillitis, those pleasant thoughts may be far removed from their thinking.
Instead, youngsters bothered by tonsil problems may have to face the prospect of having a tonsillectomy performed, given the fact that recovery from the procedure takes between 10 and 14 days, and that it calls for specific planning.
What are your tonsils?
Tonsils are those twin masses of tissue which are situated at the back of the throat, and which are part of the lymphatic system. As such, the tonsils produce white blood cells which are involved in the fighting of diseases and other undesirable intrusions of the body. They could be called upon to fight infections, or to defend against viruses and bacteria which gain entrance to the body via the mouth.
The time of life when tonsils are most actively involved as components of the immune system, is just prior to puberty, which means they are more vulnerable to infection at that time. For that reason, tonsillectomies are far more commonly performed on younger children than on teens or young adults.
What causes enlarged tonsils?
In some cases, young children develop large tonsils and adenoids without having any specific cause, and which are not associated with any other kind of problem. In cases like these, tonsils don’t usually become enlarged to the point where they cause uncomfortable symptoms for the child.
However, in situations where the enlarged tonsils are due to an infection, a virus, or seasonal allergies, it is more likely that tonsils will become enlarged and cause problems for the child. It’s very possible for youngsters to be exposed to bacterial or viral infections at daycare centers, at pre-school gatherings, or in the early grades of elementary school.
In many cases, once the cause of the enlarged tonsils fades away, so does the swelling of the tonsils, and everything goes back to a relatively normal state. However, there are times when complications can result from enlarged tonsils, most notably imparting a very stuffy sounding quality to a child, much like having a cold or the flu.
This is often noticeable in children who are breathing through their mouths rather than through their noses as normal. In more severe cases, enlarged tonsils can lead to chronic ear infections, with the potential for some degree of hearing loss. It can also cause chronic sinusitis, which is a recurring version of sinus infections, as well as obstructive sleep apnea.
Finally, children bothered by enlarged tonsils and some of the other symptoms resulting from them, may experience either weight loss or inability to gain weight, because their eating habits have been impacted.
What is involved in a tonsillectomy?
A tonsillectomy is defined as the process of surgically removing tonsils, for whatever reason is deemed justifiable. One of the most common reasons for performing a tonsillectomy is that inflammation of the tonsils has been occurring on a persistent basis in an individual, quite often with those occurrences of tonsillitis coming closer and closer together.
It’s also possible that tonsillectomy is indicated for cases when it is known that the tonsils are bleeding, and this bleeding is difficult to stop. One last situation where tonsillectomy is the preferred option is when an infection occurs in the tonsils, and that infection does not respond appropriately to antibiotics.
When an infection cannot be brought under control using antibiotics, there are a few other alternatives which can be pursued, because the infected tonsils cannot be allowed to remain in place, where they can cause further damage in the body.
What are enlarged tonsils?
It’s very possible for tonsils to become enlarged when they frequently become infected. When that happens, there are generally symptoms which are present that cannot be left untreated. Younger children who are experiencing enlarged tonsils will often have difficulty breathing and swallowing, they may have unusual snoring during sleep, they may have to breathe through their mouths rather than through their noses, and there is very often a disruption to sleep patterns which can cause persistent fatigue and the child. When this kind of disrupted sleep persists, it can very often lead to crankiness, daytime sleepiness, and stretches of hyperactivity in the individual.
What kind of surgeries can be used on tonsils?
If an individual is experiencing extremely negative side effects from enlarged tonsils, or if recurring tonsillitis is bothering the individual, surgery may be the only practical alternative for restoring good health. In these situations, it will generally be necessary to completely remove the tonsils as well as the adenoids, in order to restore normalcy.
The surgery is not a difficult procedure, and it can be done on an outpatient basis right in your doctor’s office. There are seldom any complications associated with the procedure, and recovery time after surgery is generally only a matter of a few days.
It is known that at least 20 Americans are troubled by some kind of thyroid disorder, which makes that medical condition even more prevalent than heart disease or diabetes. However, it’s also known that as many as 60% of all thyroid cases are not detected or treated, simply because the symptoms of a thyroid problem are often misunderstood as markers of some other issue such as allergies, colds, or advancing age.
This is unfortunate, because thyroid issues which go undiagnosed can often worsen into more severe health issues, and at that time it’s much harder to bring the disorder under control than it would have been at an earlier stage. In this discussion, we’ll take a look at some of the most prominent signs that there may be a problem with your thyroid.
What is the Thyroid Gland?
The thyroid gland is an organ which is situated at the base of your neck, and has the shape of a butterfly with its wings spread. The gland releases hormones that control your body’s metabolism, which is the manner in which energy is used. These hormones regulate many of the most important processes of your body, including body temperature, muscle strength, cholesterol levels, menstrual cycles, heart rate, breathing, and the central and peripheral nervous systems.
The thyroid gland is really very small, being only about two inches in length, and it’s situated in the forward part of the throat, just below a mass of thyroid cartilage which is generally referred to as the Adam’s Apple. The two sides of the thyroid gland are referred to as lobes, and these are located on both sides of your windpipe, connected by a thin tissue strip known as the isthmus. Some people are actually born without this isthmus, leaving the two thyroid lobes separated.
How the Thyroid Gland Works
As part of the overall endocrine system, the thyroid gland is just one of those glands which manufactures hormones for release into the bloodstream, where the hormones eventually reach all the cells of the body. In order to produce the hormones that it does, the thyroid extracts iodine from many of the foods you eat, so it can produce the hormones which are known in their short form as T3 and T4. If the levels of these two hormones are either too high or too low, there are two other glands, the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus, which signal the brain to correct the imbalance.
Signs That you may Have a Thyroid Problem
Since the impact of the thyroid gland and the hormones which it produces can be so pervasive throughout the body, it’s important that warning signs of a thyroid problem are detected as early as possible so they can be treated. Here are some of the most prominent signs that you may have a thyroid issue:
- Muscular pain – When you feel intermittent numbness or tightening in the legs, feet, hands, or arms, it may be a sign of a thyroid problem. A deficiency of one of the thyroid hormones can disrupt signals between your brain and the rest of the body.
- Sudden weight gain – Although there are a number of factors involved in weight gain, when you put on a lot of pounds in a very short time frame, this could indicate a thyroid problem.
- Deep sadness or depression – When the thyroid is overactive or underactive, it can trigger mood swings in an individual, and restlessness or anxiety can be another of the symptoms you experience.
- Changes in appetite – If you notice that foods or beverages suddenly taste different to you, it can be a sign that you have an underactive thyroid, which can interfere with your sense of smell and/or taste.
- Hair loss and dry skin – When your skin or scalp are itchy and dry much of the time, it can indicate an overactive thyroid. When your hair begins falling out, that can be a sign of an underactive thyroid, because the growth cycle of your hair is disrupted by lack of a needed hormone.
- High blood pressure – When you have high blood pressure that seemingly can’t be brought under control, even with a healthy diet and regular exercise, the thyroid gland could be the culprit. If the thyroid gland is underactive, it can cause high levels of bad cholesterol, and that in turn, triggers various heart issues.
- Constipation – When there is a disruption to the production of hormones in the thyroid, it can cause sluggishness in the digestive system, and that in turn, can bog down the normal elimination processes of the body.
- Excessive sleeping – When the thyroid is underactive, it can cause a number of body functions and processes to slow down dramatically, making you feel tired and listless even in the daytime.
- Throat or neck discomfort – It could be a sign of a thyroid disorder if you feel a lump in your throat, or if you experience a change in the sound of your voice. This may be detectable by checking for any swelling in the area around your neck
- Hot and cold flashes – Any kind of disruption to the thyroid has the potential of interfering with the body’s ability to regulate temperature, and when this happens you might feel either excessively cold or excessively warm.
Saliva is the fluid which keeps your mouth moist, shields your teeth from harmful substances, acts as an aid to digestion, and provides assistance for the swallowing process. The glands which produce saliva are known as the salivary glands, and the fluid which is produced in them is carried into the mouth via small tubes which are known as ducts.
If anything happens to the ducts or the salivary glands, it can create a significant amount of discomfort for a person, and can also lead to infection. If you should experience symptoms which are warning signs of some kind of problem with salivary glands or the ducts, you should recognize these for what they are, and seek medical assistance from your family doctor.
Your salivary glands can produce up to a quart of saliva every single day, because there are three pairs of these glands, all engaged in the production of saliva – the sublingual glands which are positioned under the tongue, the parotid glands on the insides of your cheeks, and the submandibular glands on the bottom of your mouth.
In addition to these three major pairings, there are actually hundreds of minor salivary glands which are situated throughout the throat and the mouth. Problems with either the salivary glands or the ducts are generally recognizable as drymouth, fever, pain, glandular swelling, and sometimes an unpleasant drainage which accumulates in the mouth.
Causes of Problems with Salivary Glands
There are a number of possible causes of salivary gland problems, some of which are situated in the glands themselves, and some of them constituting blockage of the ducts, so that saliva drainage is disrupted. One of most common causes of swollen glands is salivary stones, which are crystallized saliva deposits that manage to accumulate in the glands.
These can often prevent the flow of saliva, and when that happens, saliva backs up into the gland, forcing the gland to swell, and causing discomfort. Pain is usually sensed in one gland or the other, and is intermittent in nature, but it will get progressively worse until the blockage is cleared, and if it is not cleared promptly, the salivary gland can then become infected.
When ducts into the mouth become blocked, a bacterial infection of the parotid gland is often the result, a painful lump is created, and nasty smelling pus will begin draining into the mouth. This condition is far more common in older adults, but it sometimes also happens in babies soon after birth.
Whenever swollen salivary glands go untreated, they will very likely cause high fever, severe pain, and a collection of pus known as an abscess. Infections of a viral nature such as flu or the mumps can also cause salivary gland willing. When swelling of this type occurs in the parotid glands on both sides of your face, it can give the appearance of full cheeks like those of a chipmunk. This kind of salivary gland swelling is quite often associated with mumps, since it occurs in as many as 40% of all mumps infections.
Other types of viral illnesses which may trigger swelling of the salivary glands are human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), cytomegalovirus (CMV), and Coxsackie Virus. When these kinds of viruses occur, they are generally single-sided gland swelling, and are usually accompanied by pain and fever. The risk for developing these kinds of bacterial infections rises when a person is dehydrated or is suffering from malnutrition.
Cysts can also develop in the salivary glands when salivary stones block the flow of saliva, or when blockage results from infections, injuries, or tumors. In some cases, babies are born with cysts in the parotid gland because of a developmental problem with the ears. Anyone who develops cysts in the salivary glands will probably have difficulty speaking and with eating.
There are a few different kinds of tumors which can affect the salivary glands, and these can be either malignant or benign. The two most common kinds of tumors affecting salivary glands are Warthin’s Tumor and pleomorphic adenomas. Pleomorphic adenomas generally impact the parotid glands, but can also have an impact on the submandibular gland, or the hundreds of relatively minor salivary glands. These kinds of tumors are usually slow-growing, and relatively free of pain. They are non-cancerous tumors and occur far more often in women than in men.
Treatment for Salivary Gland Problems
Treatment for blockages of the ducts and for saliva stones generally starts with warm compresses and sour candies, since these are helpful in triggering an increase of saliva flow. Stones must generally be removed, and if simpler measures don’t achieve the desired results, surgery is generally indicated.
When surgery is necessary to remove tumors, they are often radiated in order to prevent them from returning at a later date. Cancerous tumors often require stronger radiation, as well as chemotherapy.
Large cysts are generally treated with surgery, since these cannot generally be handled with medication. However, some other types of salivary gland problems do respond to medication, for instance bacterial infections, and these can effectively be treated with antibiotics. Other problems such as drymouth can also be treated with medications.
As the known term for a blister-like ulcer within the mouth, herpangina occurs typically in childhood. Unfortunately, being an infection, herpangina can cause other health issues – we’re here to discuss what you need to know.
What is Herpangina?
In the past, the infection has been compared to hand-foot-mouth disease since they’re both viral infections found mostly in children. As a group of viruses known to affect the gastrointestinal tract, enteroviruses are to blame for herpangina. The immune system will typically jump into action as soon as it detects an enterovirus. Since young children and infants aren’t always equipped with the right antibodies, they’re more susceptible to these viruses.
When it comes to herpangina, the main issue is its contagiousness. After spotting or hearing of an ulcer in the roof of the mouth or back of the throat, you should look to treat the symptoms and have the infection cleared as soon as possible. If left untreated, it can spread around a nursery or classroom.
Although herpangina can affect anyone of any age, those around the age of 5 to 10 years experience it most frequently. Since it’s highly-contagious, breeding grounds can form in classrooms, camps, and other locations where children regularly congregate. In the U.S., researchers have found the problem to be most common in fall and summer.
Symptoms of Herpangina
Both for yourself and your children, some health conditions can be hard to diagnose since the symptoms are very similar to other health issues. Luckily, the signs of herpangina can be spotted and tested more easily. For example, the primary symptoms one might experience include swollen lymph glands, sudden onset of fever, neck pain, difficulty in swallowing, sore throat, loss of appetite, and a headache.
For smaller children, there may be an issue with verbal communication of symptoms, but indicators include excessive drooling or vomiting. Of course, ulcers may also be visible on the roof of the mouth or towards the back of the throat. In appearance, specialists suggest a gray color with a red border for ulcers; in the majority of cases, they clear within a week.
Should I Contact a Doctor?
For many, especially with worried parents, this is the key question because you want to help your child feel better but you don’t want to exaggerate what may be a small issue. Therefore, we advise contacting the doctor if a fever measures above 106 degrees (or stays for longer than usual), if there are signs of dehydration, and if mouth sores remain for longer than five days.
After paying a visit to your doctor, they can typically diagnose the issue with ease since the ulcers are unique in their appearance. With a simple physical examination of yourself or your child, they can see the problem while also assessing all symptoms and your medical history. With herpangina, specialized diagnostic tests aren’t required.
Regarding treatment, the goal is to reduce the symptoms while also keeping them under control in the days ahead. Depending on your age and a number of other factors – including your medical history and symptoms – doctor’s can recommend different types of treatment. A course of antibiotics won’t be especially useful since herpangina is a viral infection.
With this in mind, the first suggestion would be acetaminophen or ibuprofen. It’s crucial that the patient doesn’t take aspirin since herpangina has been linked to the potentially life-threatening Reyes disease that is associated with a severe aspirin allergy.
Elsewhere, topical anesthetics could be used to relieve any mouth pain (and sore throat), including lidocaine. Regardless of the treatment, the doctor will suggest an increased intake of liquids with a focus on water and milk; hot drinks and citrus-based beverages will worsen the symptoms. Strangely enough, many sufferers have found popsicles to ease throat issues so this could also be advised.
Finally, you might be wondering whether you can avoid this disease altogether. First and foremost, you can take preventative measure by practicing good hygiene habits. For example, all the necessary rules apply such as covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing, washing hands after using the toilet, and washing hands before meals. If you teach your children the basic hygiene rules, you’ll decrease the likelihood of them suffering from herpangina too.
If your child currently has herpangina, remember these rules when helping them to recover. Throughout the day, wash your hands and pay particular attention before and after changing diapers or dealing with mucus. Furthermore, try to keep areas of high activity clean for your child including toys, surfaces, and their beds. To avoid becoming the enemy of all other parents, we also advise keeping your child from school or day-care while recovering too. If you follow these tips, you or your child will be back to full health in no time!
Of all the things we experience in life, there are few more frustrating than a cough. At first, we hope it will last for just a couple of days before then disappearing. After several weeks, this is the time you should go to see a doctor because your body is telling you something. With coughs caused by viral infections or an upper respiratory infection should disappear within a week. Any cough that lasts longer than a week, a chronic cough, suggests an underlying health condition. Of course, this could be asthma, which is a common issue, but there’s another health problem we’re starting to learn more about as time goes on: sinusitis.
The Link Between Chronic Cough and Sinusitis
According to various ongoing studies and research, we now know that sinusitis is a bigger problem than we first thought. In fact, back in a 2005 Mayo Clinic study, at least 33% of all chronic cough sufferers were suffering from sinusitis (some form of inflammation of the sinuses). In the twelve years since then, this number has increased, but there are now solutions available.
If you’re wondering why this inflammation causes a cough, it comes from what we call ‘postnasal drip.’ Here, your sinuses will produce too much mucus to be of any use so some will drip backward into the throat and this triggers the cough reflex. In the medical world, this has a name of its own; upper airway cough syndrome (UACS). As a side effect of having sinusitis, this creates the link with your chronic cough, meaning you need to treat the sinusitis before anything else. If left untreated, the cough will keep returning time after time.
While on the topic, we should also discuss allergic rhinitis (inflammation concentrated in the nose). It’s caused by allergens such as mold, pollen, and dust mites. With millions of people suffering from allergies in the US, this is now a huge issue and it just so happens that postnasal drip is a symptom of the problem. As we know, this will soon lead to a chronic cough which persists until you receive treatment.
Generally speaking, patients with sinusitis and rhinitis-related coughs experience a worsening of the symptoms when the sun goes down. Since we go to bed and lie down to get some rest, this horizontal position can cause a disruption in the throat which makes sleeping somewhat difficult. Furthermore, we normally have something else to focus on throughout the day. When we’re trying to go to bed, we tend to concentrate on the things that are preventing us from resting, and this places all the emphasis on the cough.
As mentioned before, treating the cough alone in these situations is a little pointless because it won’t be long before postnasal drip brings it back again. Therefore, you need to consider tackling the cause of the issue which is the sinusitis.
If you’ve been experiencing the symptoms for more than 12 weeks, you’re now past the ‘acute’ phase and are progressing into the ‘chronic’ phase. At this stage, antibiotics aren’t likely to act fast enough, which is why some form of therapy may be required. Treatment options include including anti-inflammatory nasal sprays and the like. If the problem persists and starts to affect your life dramatically, you should see your doctor for a consultation for balloon sinuplasty.
How balloon sinuplasty works: after inserting a small camera into the nasal passage, a balloon is then sent up before being inflated. This inflation procedure works similarly to opening blocked arteries during heart surgery. Compared to more traditional options, this is less invasive and will only see you out-of-action for a couple of days.
From here, you can then treat the chronic cough (if it still exists) as you would a normal cough. Safe in the knowledge the postnasal drip has stopped, you can treat the cough without worrying about it returning anytime soon.
Ultimately, you know your body better than anybody else. Only you know when the cough is unusual in duration and severity. If you pay attention to the length of a cough, by marking it on the calendar, you’ll soon learn the right time to see a medical professional and find the underlying issue.
Have you had a dry cough nagging away at you for the past few weeks? At first, we attribute it to the flu or just a cough that will ‘go away soon’. As time goes on, we start to ignore it and actually grow accustomed to the cough but this is incredibly dangerous for a number of reasons. Today, we’re going to uncover these reasons and see what your cough could mean (and why you should seek medical attention).
What Is a Dry Cough?
In case you were unaware, a dry cough is any type of cough that produces no mucus or phlegm. Otherwise known as a ‘non-productive’ cough, they quickly become irritating and cause frustration. Often, they get worse at night as you lie down and this prevents a good nights’ sleep and leads to further issues – trouble concentrating at work, constant daytime fatigue, and even impacts on your personal and professional relationships.
Normal Duration of a Cough
With this in mind, how long does a “typical” cough actually last? According to most experts, a cold or flu-related cough should disappear within two weeks. Though some will be shorter and some may extend to three weeks, this is the average duration a cough lasts.
If the cough lasts for more than eight weeks, this is treated as a chronic cough and for children this lasts around four weeks. If you’ve had a dry cough that has lasted for more than eight weeks, now is the time to see the doctor – especially if it’s affecting work/school, sleep, personal life, or produces bloody phlegm.
When you first visit the doctor, they’ll look into your medical history before beginning a medical examination. In this testing phase, they may take an x-ray as well as a computerized tomography (CT) scan. With a CT scan, they’ll be able to see the condition of your lungs as well as any issues that would produce a cough or issues within the sinus cavities. After this, they could also go for lung function tests, scope tests, and lab tests.
Possible diagnoses could include the following, some of which produce a dry cough:
- Asthma – First and foremost, a cough relating to asthma may come as the seasons change or after an upper respiratory tract infection. With asthma, it means there is an issue within the lungs and this leads to regular coughs, difficulty breathing, and many other side-effects. If this is the cause, you may be given an inhaler to aid with your breathing, help your lungs, and clear up the cough.
- Postnasal Drip – As the nose produces excess amounts of mucus, it can actually drip down into the throat and trigger the cough reflex. Also known as upper airway cough syndrome (UACS), it can continue for some time without treatment.
- Infections – After a bad case of the flu or an infection in the upper respiratory tract, whooping cough can form which is a bacterial infection within the airways and lungs.
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) – With this issue, stomach acid can back up into the esophagus (which connects your throat and stomach). This can cause both a wet and dry cough, which causes GERD, causing further coughing, etc.
- Bronchitis – Finally, this inflammation within the bronchial tubes (airways) can cause dry coughing. Although most sufferers are or were heavy smokers, it can occur in anyone and it falls into the spectrum for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Other causes – Ultimately, these are the most common underlying problems for a dry cough but you could also be experiencing a side-effect from blood pressure drugs, cystic fibrosis, lung cancer, laryngopharyngeal reflux, and sarcoidosis.
Ultimately, the treatment required will depend entirely on the issue found. For example, antihistamines and decongestants are common for allergies and postnasal drip while antibiotics will be the best solution for infections. Furthermore, acid blockers would be advised for acid reflux although surgery is an option for the more severe cases.
Elsewhere, cough suppressants might be issued if the doctor cannot find the reason for the cough. If the cough is preventing you from sleeping and severely affecting your life, this solution should see you through until test results are returned and the doctor can work towards a proper treatment to get you back on your feet.
If you have a dry cough that doesn’t seem to be disappearing or if you’re coughing up blood, get in contact with your doctor today and you can have the problem treated rather than living with a potentially dangerous health condition.
Causes of Swallowing Disorders
Trouble swallowing might be because of something blocking the esophagus and this is preventing anything from passing through. Swallowing disorders might stem from any of the following types of blockages:
- Esophagitis – This is where the esophagus becomes inflamed after an infection or perhaps even a pill getting stuck. For some, they also experience some form of reaction to a substance in the air or food they consume.
- Gastroesophegeal Reflux Disease (GERD) – If stomach acid manages to back right up into the esophagus, ulcers can form and this can actually lead to scars; in turn, this narrows the esophagus.
- Other Issues – Although these are the two main issues, you could also have cancerous or benign tumors within the esophagus or small sacs that form on the walls of your throat (diverticula). Finally, lymph nodes can appear on the vertebrae and push into the esophagus from the outside.
Secondly, the muscles and/or nerves might not be working correctly and this may come from brain injuries, stroke, orsome other health concerns.
- Nervous System – With muscular dystrophy, post-polio syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis, these can affect the muscles and nerves.
Esophageal Spasm – At random intervals, the muscles will squeeze together and this prevents food from reaching the stomach.
- Scleroderma – With the esophagus tissue, this can become hard as well as narrow. In some cases, it can also weaken the lower esophageal muscles which, in turn, causes a backup of stomach acid in the throat.
- Immune System – Finally, an issue in the immune system can cause weakness and swelling in the area.
Now we know the issues that exist, how do professionals treat these swallowing disorders so you can return to your normal self? Firstly, they’ll try to locate the problem using an x-ray and various other procedures they have. If necessary, they’ll use a small camera to see the extent of the damage or even a small pressure gauge to measure your ability to swallow. Once they’ve found the cause, they can get to work on treatment and there are many different solutions depending on the cause.
- Dilation – If your esophagus has narrowed, this treatment will see a small device expand the area; this may require several sessions.
- Diet – If your diet is causing the problem, your doctor will recommend changing the foods you eat to identify the problematic ingredient.
- Exercise – As strange as It sounds, you can actually complete swallowing exercises to strengthen the muscles and allow for better swallowing.
- Endoscopy – In some situations, a blockage might cause the problem and an endoscopy can be used to remove any objects.
- Medicines – If the issue is related to heartburn, GERD, or esophagitis, some prescription medicines might be able to prevent stomach acid from getting into the esophagus. With infections, antibiotic medicines will also help the problem.
- Surgery – Finally, and this will only be done if completely necessary, surgery can remove blockages or anything else affecting the lower esophageal muscle.
Since 2007, scientists announced plans for a Human Microbiome Project to catalog the micro-organisms living in our body, and because of this project, a new body of research has had a profound influence on how such organisms affect our health. From this growing research, one study has found a possible link between throat microbes and schizophrenia, and this link could explain the etiology, that is, the causes, behind this neuropsychiatric disorder, and thus pave a way for new treatments.
In this peer-review study conducted at George Washington University in Washington, DC, and published in the journal PeerJ, researchers looked at the levels of fungi, bacteria and virus microbes in the oropharynx region of the throat. The reason for choosing this region, according to the head author Eduardo Castro-Nallar, is that the oropharynx region appears to contain different levels of oral bacteria in people with schizophrenia compared to people who don’t have the disorder. “Specifically, our analyses revealed an association between microbes such as lactic acid bacteria and schizophrenics,” he says.
A growing number of studies have demonstrated that the microbiome—the ecological community of viruses, bacteria and fungi found living on and within the human body—has recently been conntected to brain development, behavior and cognition.
Several studies published in Medical News Today and the New York Times have reported on how gut microbiome can reduce cognitive functioning and affect psychological moods and states such as anxiety and depression.
New research on our body’s microbiome—especially how it affects cognitive development and moods—is becoming more and more exciting in medicine. The link between throat bacteria and schizophrenia is one clear example of what’s happening with connecting the microbiome to health issues. Hopefully, more of this research will lead to improved sinusitis and some forms of sleep apnea.
This new study examined the complete microbiome by looking at viruses, bacteria and fungi present in 16 individuals with schizophrenia and 16 control participants. The researchers reported significant differences between the microbiome of schizophrenia patients and those of the control participants. The control participants were richer in microbe species but less even in their distribution than the participants with schizophrenia.
What this means is that evidence of the fungal species Candida dubliniensis was more evident in participants with schizophrenia, and the researchers suggested that this fungus may be connected with immune response problems. One lead researcher mentioned the importance of further and wider studies though.
“Our results suggesting a link between microbiome diversity and schizophrenia require replication and expansion to a broader number of individuals for further validation,” reports Keith Crandall, director of the Computational Biology Institute at George Washington University. He further explained, “But the results are quite intriguing and suggest potential applications of biomarkers for diagnosis of schizophrenia and important metabolic pathways associated with the disease.”
The researchers concluded that their findings were extremely important to understanding not only schizophrenia but also how our microbiome in the body affects cognitive development and other behavioral issues. Yet more research with diverse samples, such as in the gut microbiome, will be able to shed more light on the potential links between schizophrenia and these microbes.
Strep versus Sore Throat: Learn the Difference Here
When school is in session, outbreaks of strep throat can be common. Determining whether this common childhood infection is actually strep or just a sore throat can be challenging. Some parents may not be sure what the differences are or how to determine when to take a child to the doctor for treatment. Here are some things to keep in mind when weighing the differences between strep versus sore throat.
To start, a sore throat is generally caused by a virus. Usually, it will manifest along with other symptoms such as sneezing and a runny nose. There is no medicine that will cure a viral infection, so it generally just has to run its course. While they may be similar, there are marked variations between a strep and a virally induced sore throat.
Strep throat is caused by a bacterial infection. It is contagious, and this is one reason it spreads so quickly, particularly among little ones. Sneezing, coughing, and inadequate handwashing are some ways the infection can be spread. Generally, an infection leading to strep throat is treated with antibiotics. Symptoms may include fever, swollen tonsils, nausea, difficulty swallowing, and white and red patches on the throat. When these symptoms present themselves, it is a good idea to call the pediatrician. A swab test can be done to determine if there is in fact a strep infection. Plenty of rest, fluids, and a course of antibiotics are generally all that is needed to have children back to a normal routine.
The question often arises as to whether a child should have their tonsils removed in cases of frequent strep infection. Research has shown that this may be advisable when infections occur more than seven times in one year, or several times in two consecutive years. Talking to your pediatrician is best when making such a decision.
Knowing the differences between strep versus sore throat can save parents an emergency visit expense, but when in doubt always consult a medical professional.