The terms odynophagia and dysphagia refer to two problems concerning the swallowing of food. These two concepts differ from each other due to some differences which we will discuss in this article.
Although many people confuse the two terms, after analyzing the differences it will be easy to see that they are two very distinct, albeit partly related, disorders.
Differences between odynophagia and dysphagia
What is odynophagia?
The concept of odynophagia refers – as well explained in the MSD Manual – to pain experienced when swallowing solid, liquid or saliva foods. Here are some characteristics of this disorder:
- Mild pain : Although it can become acute in some cases, the pain is usually quite mild.
- Chronicity : In some cases the pain when swallowing becomes chronic, which may indicate the presence of a serious illness that needs treatment.
- Synchronic contractions: The muscles in the throat contract, causing pain.
In most cases, oynophagia occurs as a result of disorders such as pharyngitis, tonsillitis and other problems affecting the throat. However, once the triggering cause is taken care of, the pain subsides.
Sometimes, however, the pain when swallowing becomes chronic, which may indicate a more serious problem, such as an ulcer.
But before panicking and worrying without a valid reason, in the presence of one of the symptoms listed, you should contact your doctor; is the best choice to remove any doubts. Moreover, thanks to the medical examination, it will be possible to start the treatment suited to the problem.
What is dysphagia?
After describing oynophagy, let’s talk about dysphagia. In this case there is no pain when swallowing, but a number of difficulties in swallowing both solid and liquid foods are reported .
Food actually stops as it passes through the throat. Sometimes the person with dysphagia may also experience food chewing problems when forming what is commonly referred to as a food bolus. Some symptoms of dysphagia coincide with those of oynophagia:
- Painful swallowing (odynophagia): This is the cause why solid or liquid foods cannot pass through the throat normally.
- Sensation of hysterical bolus: this is a symptom of anxiety, accompanied by the sensation of stiffening and blockage of the throat muscles.
- Hoarse voice: it is due to a contraction of the muscles of the affected area.
- Reflux: the inability to swallow causes food to return to the mouth, as it cannot pass through the throat.
- Gagging: these occur due to difficulty in swallowing and regurgitation caused by dysphagia.
Causes of dysphagia
Among the causes of dysphagia we can find achalasia (a rare disease that affects the esophagus), but also esophagitis associated with a form of food allergy or the presence of tumors.
During the medical examination following the symptoms described above, first of all the professional will check for the presence of foreign bodies that could cause dysphagia. In some cases, in fact, this annoying problem is due to food residues in the throat.
Preventing odynophagia and dysphagia
Now that you know the differences between odynophagia and dysphagia, although one is sometimes a symptom of the other, it is important to know the prevention measures.
In this regard, it is advisable to chew food well and not to ingest too large pieces of food, which make swallowing difficult. In addition to this, it is necessary to acquire healthy habits to stay healthy and to avoid pharyngitis or other ailments that can trigger these disorders.
Finally, we cannot forget the importance of regular medical checks to verify the state of health. An early diagnosis of an ulcer, gastroesophageal reflux or tumor allows to prevent, in the long run, even the appearance of odynophagia and dysphagia.