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It used to be so easy to munch a handful of nuts: chew, swallow, enjoy. Now, you avoid them or make sure there's a glass of water nearby when you eat nuts or any other foods that seem to get stuck in your throat. "It's normal to have some age-related changes with swallowing or occasional difficulty swallowing. What's not normal is when food or liquids get into the lungs regularly," says Semra Koymen, a speech-language pathologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.
Causes and symptoms
A speech pathologist's evaluation of dysphagia includes an exam of your mouth and tongue, consideration of your medical history and symptoms, and most likely a test in the radiology department called a video swallow study. It's done using a fluoroscopean x-ray machine that takes moving pictures. You swallow a variety of liquids and foods mixed with barium, a substance that shows up on x-rays. "As you swallow, we can see the material move through the mouth and throat and into the esophagus," says Koymen.
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