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How to deal with dysphagia

Updated: Jan 17

dysphagia



Dysphagia: A Condition That Affects Swallowing


What is Dysphagia

Swallowing is an involuntary yet essential bodily function, playing a major role in food digestion. If this process fails it can cause serious problems to the body, the inability of this process is known as dysphagia.


We will examine the idea of dysphagia as well as possible causes and potential treatments.


Dysphagia is a medical term that is used to describe difficulties or discomfort when swallowing. It can occur at different stages of the swallowing process, from the mouth to the pharyngeal or at the oesophagus. This condition can be caused by a range of factors some include muscle weakness, nerve damage, stroke, brain injury and Parkinson’s disease.


Dysphagia can manifest in various ways:

  • Pain or discomfort while swallowing

  • Sensation of food getting stuck in the throat

  • Choking or coughing during meals

  • Weight loss


Respiratory issues

  • Persistent drooling of saliva

  • These symptoms can significantly impact a person’s quality of life in ways like:

  • Malnutrition

  • Dehydration

  • Social isolation due to embarrassment of eating in public

  • Reduced enjoyment of eating/drinking

  • Increased health risk


Pneumonia

There are treatment options available for dysphagia; the specific approach depends on the underlying cause and severity of the condition. Treating the condition requires a multidisciplinary approach tailored to the individuals specific needs. The goal of treatment is to find a safe yet enjoyable way to eat.


Swallowing exercises

A speech language pathologist (SLP) will conduct an assessment to see what is making swallowing difficult and base the therapy on their findings. The therapy may include tongue and throat exercises to strengthen the throat muscles and swallow correctly as well as techniques to improve saliva control.


Dietary modifications

Adjusting the texture and consistency of food and liquids can help individuals with dysphagia swallow safely. Texture-modified foods could include softer or pureed foods and thickening liquids as they are easier to control in the mouth. If you experience unexpected weight loss you will be referred to a dietician to ensure that you are eating a balanced diet and have your weight monitored to maintain good health.


Assistive devices

Depending on your individual needs, sometimes an assistive device may be required. These include feeding tubes to provide nutrition or oral appliances to improve swallowing.


Medical interventions

In some cases of dysphagia, it is treated with medication to address the underlying cause of the condition. Some examples are muscle relaxants or proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) for acid reflux. There can also be surgical procedures used to remove blockages like inserting a stent in the oesophagus or repair structural abnormalities.


Dysphagia is a complex condition that can be a result of a variety of factors. Most cases of dysphagia can be treated, with the right diagnosis and treatment individuals with dysphagia can regain their swallowing function and return to a better quality of life.



If you have any issues or worries about yourself or someone with dysphagia you can refer to our website City Psychological Services where you will be able to talk with Dr Liliya Korallo.



References

Groher, M. & Crary, M. (2016) Dysphagia: clinical management in adults and children, 2nd edition. Elsevier Health Sciences.

Smith, R., Bryant, L. & Hemsley, B. (2022a) Dysphagia and quality of life, participation, and inclusion experiences and outcomes for adults and children with dysphagia: a scoping review. Perspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups, 7(1), 181–196. https://doi.org/10.1044/2021_PERSP-21-00162

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