If you have trouble swallowing pills, rest assured that you’re not alone. Pill dysphagia or difficulty swallowing pills is more common than you’d anticipate. However, you may not be aware of its causes and how manageable they can be.

If you are prescribed medication but have trouble swallowing it, familiarizing yourself with the reasons behind pill dysphagia and how common it is can put things into perspective.

What is Dysphagia?

Pill dysphagia pertains to difficulty swallowing tablets and is often uncomfortable or painful. It is often challenging to determine the cause of pill dysphagia, so treatment usually varies.

There are three common types of dysphagia:

  • Oral: This occurs primarily in the mouth and often coincides with tongue weakness and difficulty chewing.
  • Pharyngeal: Occurring in the throat; this type of dysphagia is sometimes caused by neurological problems (i.e., fear of swallowing).
  • Esophageal: This occurs in the esophagus and is typically the result of a blockage or irritation.

How Common is Dysphagia?

Pill dysphagia occurs in a more significant population than you’d expect—it affects over 30% of people globally. However, pill dysphagia doesn’t happen to just anyone. It’s more common in:

  • The elderly
  • Young children
  • Adults with underlying medical conditions
  • Adults with throat-related phobias

Common Symptoms

Despite its prevalence, dysphagia isn’t a condition that many people notice. In fact, it may even go undiagnosed for years. If you think you might be suffering from dysphagia.

  • Coughing when swallowing
  • General fear of swallowing
  • Hoarseness
  • Anxiety before swallowing
  • Sensation of pills getting stuck in the throat
  • Regurgitating pills after swallowing
  • Inability to control saliva production in the mouth
  • Acidity

How to Diagnose Dysphagia

If you’ve had problems swallowing pills over a long period, it may be best to see a doctor. Here are a few tests you can expect to undergo:

  • Swallow study: Patients will be asked to swallow different food consistencies to determine the most challenging textures.
  • Endoscopy: A camera is inserted into the throat to pinpoint problem areas. If necessary, a doctor may perform a biopsy.
  • Barium swallow test: Patients will swallow a barium-containing liquid, which will help problem areas become more visible under an X-ray.
  • Manometry: If endoscopy doesn’t reveal any visible problems, an esophageal manometry test will observe any changes in the esophageal muscles.

Tips for Overcoming Pill Dysphagia

In most cases, pill dysphagia is easy enough to overcome without medical treatment. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, any of the following tips can help you overcome any difficulties swallowing.

Lean-Forward Technique

When it comes to discovering helpful techniques for swallowing pills, it can be as simple as re-angling your body. The lean-forward approach is self-explanatory—start with your chin up and shoulders back, take a sip of water, and tilt your head forward as you swallow.

According to a previous study, 88% of patients who attempted this method improved their swallowing techniques over time.

Diet Changes

Making subtle dietary changes can help you get used to various textures and consistencies. If you have trouble swallowing pills, weaning your way from soft or liquid foods into solid textures can help you overcome the problem.

Lots of Water

Some people struggle to swallow pills because they don’t take enough water during the process. Always take a generous gulp of water before swallowing your pill, experimenting with different amounts until you find an optimal one.

Pill-Swallowing Gel

Instead of coating your pill with soft foods, which can directly impact its efficacy, consider a pill-swallowing gel like Gloup. This slick, easy-to-use gel helps pills go down smoothly and is even suitable for children as young as two.

It’s all-natural, affordable, and doesn’t change your pill’s composition. Just place enough gel until it covers the entire pill, pop it in your mouth, and swallow—you’ll be surprised how easy it is.

Medical Alternatives

In some cases, capsules can be more challenging to swallow than tablets because of how they float in water. If your medication is also available in tablet form, consider replacing your capsules.

Person holding pills in handThe Bottom Line

While pill dysphagia is not uncommon, it can often become a nuisance. Thankfully, solutions like pill-swallowing gels are more readily available and can help you overcome any difficulty swallowing. 

If you suffer from pill dysphagia and want to make the pill-swallowing process easier, try Gloup!

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