We all have problems swallowing once in a while. We may have trouble chewing a tough piece of chicken or difficulty swallowing a big bite. A drink can “go down the wrong way,” making us cough and choke. A person with a swallowing disorder will have trouble like this all the time. A swallowing disorder is also called dysphagia (dis-FAY-juh) - difficulty chewing and swallowing liquids and/or solids.
Swallowing happens in three stages, or phases. You can have a problem in one or more of these phases. They include:
GENERAL SIGNS OF SWALLOWING DISORDERS:
CONSEQUENCE OF SWALLOWING DISORDERS:
CAUSES OF SWALLOWING DISORDERS:
There are many conditions that can cause swallowing problems. Sometimes general decline with age can cause problems. Some medications can cause dry mouth, which makes it hard to chew and swallow. Other causes include the following:
TESTING FOR SWALLOWING DISORDERS:
An SLP can test you to see how you eat and drink, ask you about your health, past illnesses, surgeries, and your swallowing problems, see how well your mouth muscles move, watch you eat to see how you sit and feed yourself and what happens when you swallow, and do special tests, if needed. The SLP can watch how you swallow using instrumental tests (modified barium swallow, endoscopic assessment).
TREATMENTS FOR SWALLOWING DISORDERS:
What treatment you need will depend on the problems you have. You may need medical treatment, such as medicines for reflux. In severe cases, you may need to get nutrition in other ways. These may include a tube through your nose or in your stomach. Your doctor will work with you if you need tube feeding. Your Connect S-LP can work with you to improve how you swallow by recommending various strategies or exercises to ensure a safer, better swallow, as well as, educate caregivers and family on ways to assist.
Source: American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Speech-Language & Audiology Canada, 2018