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  • Writer's pictureJanet Savva

What is Dysphagia?

Updated: Mar 27

Dysphagia is a problem with swallowing. The act of swallowing can be broken down into three key stages:


  • Oral (in the mouth)

  • Pharyngeal (in the throat

  • Oesophageal (in the oesophagus also known as the gullet)


Difficulties can occur at one or more of these stages and can affecting a person’s ability to eat and drink, swallow their tablets or medication or even swallow their own saliva.  


Causes of Dysphagia


There are many causes for dysphagia such as stroke, head injury, head and neck cancer or surgery, radiotherapy and neurological disease such as Parkinson’s or Motor Neurone Disease, Multiple Sclerosis or dementia. 


Symptoms of Dysphagia:


  • Drooling and difficulties with food or drink escaping from the mouth

  • Difficulties biting and chewing and forming preparing food and drinking in the mouth to be swallowed 

  • Coughing when swallowing due to particles of food or drink being misdirected into the airway “going the wrong way”

  • Choking (mild or more serious airway blockage from a food obstruction in the upper airway) 

  • Sensation of food and drink sticking in the throat or gullet after swallowing

  • Regurgitation of food and drink

  • Acid Reflux (gastroesophageal reflux)

  • Chest infection

  • Weight loss 


How can Speech and Language Therapy help with Dysphagia?


As a Speech and Language Therapist (SLT) I have an expert knowledge about the anatomy, physiology, and complexities of swallowing.  SLTs specialise in assessing, diagnosing and treating high (oropharyngeal) dysphagia, that is swallowing difficulties arising from problems in the mouth and throat. 


I will work with you to assess and diagnose your swallowing difficulties.  This may require additional investigations such as a Video fluoroscopy (video x-ray of swallowing) to aid diagnosis and treatment planning. You may also require referral to a gastroenterologist if the problems with your swallowing are more in keeping with a low (oesophageal) dysphagia.  


Your treatment plan may involve compensation strategies such as adaptions to the way you eat and drink or to the texture of your food and drinks.  It may also involve targeted swallowing exercises to strengthen the muscles involved in swallowing or swallowing strategies to help protect you from choking. 


I will also work with you to reduce your risk of health complications associated with dysphagia such as chest infections, severe choking incidents, malnutrition and dehydration.  


I can also work with those responsible for your care if you live in a care home or have carers supporting you in your own home. 


Contact me for a free 15 minute telephone consultation to see if I can help you.

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