Vim & Vigor - Summer 2018 - University of Virginia - 6

EAT,
DRINK
BE
MERRY?

&

Not when heartburn or other
conditions make it hard to swallow.
Fortunately, experts can help.
BY KELLY CASEY

R

andy Sutler, 62, remem-

6

SU M M ER 2 0 1 8

Dysphagia is most prevalent among
older adults and can be the result
of stroke, head and neck cancer,
Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and many
other diseases. But it can also develop
slowly over a number of years from
a very common condition: heartburn or GERD (gastroesophageal
reflux disease).
"The acid reflux causes inflammation, which makes the muscles in the
esophagus grow larger and tighten, constricting the passage of food," explains
James Daniero, MD, who directs the
Voice and Swallowing Clinic at UVA
Health System. In severe cases like
Sutler's, inadequately treated heartburn can impair one's swallowing ability altogether.

Fortunately, treatments for swallowing disorders have improved significantly. "Within the past 20 years, we
have really revolutionized the way we
treat swallowing disorders and now
have incision-less surgery," Dr. Daniero
says. "For patients, it typically involves
spending a night in the hospital, going
home the next morning, and back
to swallowing with usually impressive results."

Liquid vs. SOLID

Each year, 10 million Americans are
evaluated for swallowing difficulties.
Because this disorder cuts across so
many diseases, dysphagia is often under
diagnosed, according to the National
Foundation of Swallowing Disorders.

PHOTO BY GETTY IMAGES

bers the last time he was able
to eat without giving it any
thought. "I went out to eat
pizza with my wife on Labor Day. The
next day, I couldn't swallow solid food
and had to start eating pudding and
apple sauce," says Sutler. First treated
for strep throat, doctors eventually
uncovered the problem: His esophagus
had closed up from years of heartburn
that he never realized he had.
Sutler is among an estimated
590 million people worldwide dealing
with a swallowing disorder (dysphagia).
Although not a term that is top of mind
for most of us, dysphagia affects a staggering number of people-as many as
22 percent of those over the age of 50.



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Contents
Vim & Vigor - Summer 2018 - University of Virginia - Cover1
Vim & Vigor - Summer 2018 - University of Virginia - Cover2
Vim & Vigor - Summer 2018 - University of Virginia - Contents
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