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Dysphagia aka Difficulty Swallowing

Updated: Jul 29, 2020

As the title mentions, dysphagia simply means difficulty swallowing. Dysphagia can look very different for everyone.

What causes dysphagia? Dysphagia can be caused by strokes, aging, dementia, Parkinson's, ALS, multiple sclerosis, reflux, radiation therapy for cancer, cerebral palsy, surgery to the head and neck.

Dysphagia can affect different phases of swallowing

The oral phase:

Difficulty with the oral phase of the swallowing may impact chewing, cause food to stay in the mouth after swallowing, and spillage from the mouth. This can be caused by dry mouth, missing teeth, muscle weakness, and decreased coordination.

The pharyngeal phase:

Think of the pharyngeal phase as the throat. This is where the your throat muscles squeeze food and liquid down while closing off your airway (wind pipe) . Difficulty with the pharyngeal phase of the swallow causes residue in the throat or aspiration (food or liquid in the lungs). This can be caused by stroke, other neurological diseases, aging, and others.

The esophageal phase:

The esophagus connects your throat to your stomach. The esophagus needs to relax or open to let food/liquid in, and then it squeezes the food down, where it relaxes again to empty it into the stomach. Difficulty with the esophageal phase can leave residue behind. This may be cause by reflux, strictures, tumors, achalasia, and others.

Signs and Symptoms of Dysphagia

  • Coughing

  • Throat clearing

  • Choking

  • Wet-sounding voice

  • Extra effort, time, or pain with swallowing

  • Frequent pneumonia

  • Weight loss or dehydration from not getting enough to eat or drink

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Drooling

ASHA-certified SLPS have the in-depth academic preparation, clinical experience, and research-based knowledge to make them the preferred provider of swallowing treatment.

Safe and efficient swallowing is vital to preventing pneumonia-related deaths, maintaining nutritional well-being, and preserving the pleasures associated with eating.

Contact us today if you have any questions about you or a loved one receiving treatment for dysphagia.

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