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Telltale Symptoms of Zenker's Diverticulum

Your digestive tract includes many parts, from your mouth to your throat to your intestines. Digestive tract problems can be uncomfortable, and they’re also potentially dangerous to your health.

If you suspect you might have a digestive tract disorder like Zenker's diverticulum, a condition that affects your esophagus at the back of your throat, get expert diagnosis and treatment this spring.

The team at the Center for Advanced Surgery, under the leadership of board-certified gastroesophageal surgeons Dr. Marc Ward and Dr. Steven Leeds, provides expert treatment and support for patients in the Dallas, Plano, and Tyler, Texas, areas.

What is a diverticulum?

A diverticulum (plural diverticula), can form at various places along your digestive tract. Diverticula are abnormal pouches of digestive tract tissue. Diverticula often form in response to unusual areas of pressure.

If you develop a diverticulum in the part of your throat where your esophagus joins with your pharynx, your condition is known as Zenker's diverticulum. A Zenker's diverticulum develops when your upper esophageal sphincter (UES) doesn’t open properly when you try to swallow food. 

Pressure on your pharyngeal wall causes a diverticulum to form.

Depending on the exact location of your diverticulum, you could be dealing with a hypopharyngeal diverticulum, a pharyngoesophageal diverticulum, or a pharyngeal pouch. As food and saliva build up inside your diverticulum, the pouch grows in size over time.

Early signs and symptoms of Zenker's diverticulum

Zenker's diverticulum typically affects people over 70 years old, and it’s more common in men than in women. If you know you could have problems with your UES due to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), you should be on the lookout for warning signs of Zenker's diverticulum.

The most common symptom of Zenker's diverticulum is difficulty swallowing. You might feel like you have a lump in your throat that makes it hard to swallow food or medication. Zenker's diverticulum can result in bad breath, persistent coughing, and a hoarse speaking voice.

You could also start to struggle with regurgitating food or aspirating food or drinks through the airways in your throat, or make gurgling sounds that you can’t control while swallowing. Aspirating food into your windpipe increases your risks of developing pneumonia.

Treatment options for your digestive tract

A diverticulum needs professional treatment, or your symptoms are likely to worsen over time. Changing how you eat and drink can be helpful in reducing a diverticulum, but if you already have serious symptoms, you’re likely to need more intensive care to restore your esophageal tissue.

The team at the Center for Advanced Surgery can diagnose your Zenker's diverticulum and recommend the right treatment plan to protect your digestive tract health. We specialize in the advanced incisionless surgery techniques that make up Z-POEM (Zenker's per oral endoscopic myotomy), which can effectively address esophageal disorders.

If you’re having trouble swallowing or other telltale signs of an esophageal diverticulum, get in touch with the team at the Center for Advanced Surgery today for diagnosis and treatment you can trust. Schedule your initial consultation appointment over the phone, or book online now.

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