Who to tell?
My last post focused on speaking your fear. Working up the strength to tell someone about your problem. This is hard and I’m continuing the idea with an exploration of who you should tell about your swallowing problem.
Patients ask me who to tell. Telling SOMEONE is the hardest step. I’m not limiting. Tell your primary care physician (i.e., PCP). They are the best. For most, that will be a family medicine physician, internal medicine physician or obstetrics and gynecology physician. Tell a medical doctor (i.e., MD) or a doctor of osteopathy (i.e., DO).
You may receive health care from a mid-level provider such as a nurse practitioner (NP), a physician assistant (i.e., PA), or an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). If so, tell them!
If you are seeing a speech therapist already for another issue, tell them! They will probably say, “Tell your primary doctor.” But, they will positively encourage you to tell your doctor.
Tell your dentist! Your dentist focuses on your teeth, and they will say to tell your doctor, but chewing food with good teeth helps people who struggle with food sticking.
What about a chiropractor? They will say, “Tell your primary doctor.” Expert physicians don’t fully understand the relationship of the vagus nerve, thoracic spinal nerves, and the esophagus. If you see a chiropractor, tell them and your primary doctor.
If you are seeing a therapist or psychiatrist, they also fall into the category of needing to know you’re having this problem. They will help you, but they will encourage you to see your primary doctor.
Are you already seeing a gastroenterologist (i.e., GI doctor), for something else? Boom! Perfect! Tell them. They’re key for working through swallowing problems.
If you’re seeing another medical specialist, tell them and ask them who they’d see. The esophagus is behind the heart and between the lungs. The cardiologist treats the heart and blood vessels. The pulmonologist treats the lungs and airways. Otolaryngologists (aka ENT or Ear, Nose and Throat doctors) care for problems in the neck. In most hospitals, cardiologists, gastroenterologists, pulmonologists, and ENTs know each other and co-treat many patients. Cardiologists and pulmonologists won’t treat esophagus problems, but they can tell you who to see. They won’t refer you directly but getting a name or two is invaluable. All of them consult with radiologists (like myself) to sort out swallowing problems.