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 What is Dysphagia?

Dysphagia is the medical term for the
symptom of difficulty in swallowing.

 
The word dysphagia is derived from the Greek dys meaning
bad or disordered, and phagomeaning "eat".

Dysphagia is most likely to occur in the elderly, however people
of all ages can have health conditions that lead to dysphagia.

Babies born prematurely or with a congenital deformity, cerebral palsy or syndromes such as Downs Syndrome may have some difficulty in swallowing.

Adults who have had a stroke, brain injury, required surgery on their brain, neck or heart, had cancer of the neck or brain, or suffered any type of muscular disease or muscular dystrophy, may experience dysphagia. Any of these types of conditions can cause difficulties or pain in swallowing liquids, foods or even saliva.

Some signs and symptoms of dysphagia include coughing during or immediately after eating or drinking, difficulty chewing or controlling food in the mouth, inability to control liquid or saliva in the mouth, difficulty initiating a swallow, or extra effort or time to trigger a swallow, dehydration, choking, frequent pneumonia, unexplained weight loss, gurgly or wet voice after swallowing, nasal regurgitation, or the person complaining of swallowing difficulty.

Dehydration and poor nutrition / malnutrition often result if a person’s dysphagia isn’t managed properly. They are also at great risk of aspiration, where food or liquid enters the airway which can lead to pneumonia or other chronic illnesses., and can be life threatening if not treated properly.

Embarrassment and social isolation is also a significant consideration as people with dysphagia are more likely to avoid social interaction, especially where food and drink is concerned. Anyone with swallowing difficulties needs to see a qualified speech-language pathologist who will conduct a thorough swallow assessment, and assist them to understand their needs, provide swallowing advice and modify diets or fluids where necessary. For more information visit: http://www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au

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