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Dysphagia and problems with swallowing

Definition


Dysphagia is the medical term for swallowing difficulties. Some people with Dysphagia have problems swallowing certain foods or liquids, while others cannot swallow at all.
Symptoms that can indicate Dysphagia include:
  • weight loss
  • drooling
  • inability to clear food from the mouth
  • food sticking in the throat
  • a gurgly voice
  • coughing when eating or drinking
  • choking on food, liquids or saliva
  • problems swallowing medication
  • pain when swallowing
  • discomfort in the chest or throat
  • heartburn or reflux
  • repeated chest infections
  • loss of appetite
Dysphagia is usually caused by another health condition, such as:
- a condition affecting the nervous system - such as a stroke, Parkinson's, a head/brain injury or dementia - Chest related illnesses - such as COPD and Fibrosis - cancer - such as mouth, laryngeal or oesophageal cancer - Oesophageal related disorders - including Gastro-Oesophageal reflux disease (Stomach acid leaking back up to the oesophagus)
Dysphagia can also occur in children as a result of a developmental or learning disability.

Notes


Not all Speech and Language Therapists are trained in Dysphagia. It is dangerous to provide Speech and Language Therapy to a patient with swallowing difficulties without being qualified to do so.

How we can help



We have Speech Therapists specially trained in Dysphagia. Following an assessment of the client's particular problems we can work with you and other professionals to come up with a management plan to suit your needs.
This may include:
  • adjusting your posture when eating and drinking
  • using special equipment to help you eat and drink more safely and comfortably.
  • Exercises to target the development of your lips, tongue and throat muscles to facilitate the most effective swallow.
  • changing your diet to make foods and liquids easier and safer to swallow. This may include changing the texture of your diet and looking at foods and drinks to substitute.
  • adapting your pattern of eating and drinking e.g. speed of eating and mouthful size.
  • talking with your GP or consultant about the timing of your medication.
  • improving breathing
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