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Aerophagia (var. aerophagy) is a condition of excessive air swallowing, which goes to the stomach. Aerophagia may also refer to an unusual condition where the primary symptom is excessive flatus, belching is not present, and the actual mechanism by which air enters the gut is obscure. Aerophagia in psychiatry is sometimes attributed to nervousness or anxiety.
Aerophagia is associated with chewing gum, smoking, drinking carbonated drinks, eating too quickly, anxiety, CPAP air pressure (if it is too high) and wearing loose dentures. Aerophagia is also carried out deliberately to increase the length and volume of a belch, as any air successfully swallowed serves to increase the partial pressure in the stomach. In people with cervical spinal blockages, inhaling can cause air to enter the esophagus and stomach.
Aerophagia is diagnosed in 8.8% of cognitively delayed patients where the coordination between swallowing and respiration is not well defined.
Aerophagia is a dangerous side effect of noninvasive ventilation (NIV), commonly used in treatments of respiratory problems and cardiovascular critical care or in surgery when a general anaesthetic is required. In the case of aerophagia during NIV, it is normally diagnosed by experienced medical specialists who check on patients intermittently during NIV use. The diagnosis is based on the sound heard by listening through a stethoscope placed outside the abdominal cavity. Using this approach, the problem is sometimes detected later than when it develops, possibly also later than necessary. Belated detection of aerophagia may lead to gastric distension, which in turn could elevate the diaphragm or cause aspiration of the stomach contents into the lungs or pneumatic rupture of the esophagus due to extreme gastric insufflation.
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