What are swallowing disorders?
Swallowing disorders or dysphagia, can occur at different stages in the swallowing process and can affected both adults and children.
•Oral phase – sucking, chewing, and moving food or liquid into the throat
•Pharyngeal phase – starting the swallowing reflex, squeezing food down the throat, and closing off the airway to prevent food or liquid from entering the airway (aspiration) or to prevent choking
•Esophageal phase – relaxing and tightening the openings at the top and bottom of the feeding tube in the throat (esophagus) and squeezing food through the esophagus into the stomach
What are some signs or symptoms of swallowing disorders?
Some general signs may include:
•coughing during or right after eating or drinking
•wet or gurgly sounding voice during or after eating or drinking
•extra effort or time needed to chew or swallow
•food or liquid leaking from the mouth or getting stuck in the mouth
•recurring pneumonia or chest congestion after eating
•weight loss or dehydration from not being able to eat enough
As a result of swallowing disorders adults may have poor nutrition, risk of aspirating which can lead to pneumonia and chronic lung disease, less enjoyment of eating or drinking, and embarrassment in social situations involving eating.
What treatments are available for people with swallowing disorders?
Swallowing disorder treatments will be different depending upon the cause, symptoms, and type of swallowing problem. During an evaluation performed by a speech-language pathologist, the SLP may recommend exercises to improve muscle movement, positions or strategies to help the individual swallow more effectively, or recommend specific foods and liquids with different textures to make swallowing easier and safer.