Do You Have Trouble Swallowing Pills?

Swallowing PillA recent national survey showed that 40 percent of adults report having trouble swallowing pills. Many admitted that they delayed or skipped taking necessary medications because of their difficulty. It also noted that more than 75 percent of those adults having difficulty hadn’t informed their doctor.

Pill swallowing difficulty is usually caused by anatomical dysfunction and/or anxiety. Many diseases, including stroke and Parkinson’s disease, disrupt normal mouth and throat muscle interaction, making swallowing pills difficult to coordinate. Esophageal disorders may tighten the esophagus, making it harder for larger pills to squeeze through comfortably. Many people also become anxious about pill swallowing, which can cause a more sensitive gag response and tense throat muscles, making swallowing more difficult.

There isn’t one right or a wrong way to swallow pills. While you may be able to swallow one type of pill easily, you may have trouble with a different size or shape. If you have trouble with solid foods at meals, you are more likely to have difficulty with pills. If you are able to swallow big bites of meat or bread comfortably, your swallow muscles have the ability to swallow pills.

Common tips to help swallow pills include taking it with a sip of drink or a bite of food. If you take your pills with liquid, try using juice or milk which clings to the pill to help it slide down or drinking from a bottle to help keep your tongue forward in your mouth. If you prefer to take with food, try using a slippery food like canned peaches or mandarin oranges, a spoonful of pudding or yogurt, or even a bite of bread. Your pharmacy may also carry lubricating swallow sprays and special pill swallowing cups.

If you are having trouble swallowing, please talk with your doctor regarding your options. They may be able to adjust your medications to make them easier to take or refer you to additional helpful professionals to improve your swallowing ability.

About Kerry Winget

Kerry Winget, AuD, CCC-SLP/A is a licensed speech language pathologist at St. Agnes Hospital. She has been working with adults in the medical setting for over 15 years. She has special interest in swallowing disorders and treatment. She recently earned her 9th Award for Continuing Education (ACE) from the American Speech and Hearing Association.

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