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What is a swallowing disorder (Dysphagia) & how can a Speech Pathologists help?

Swallowing, otherwise known as dysphagia, is an extremely important skill that should be taken very seriously.

Often, swallowing skills are completely taken for granted and are never given a moment’s thought, until things start to go wrong.

Dysphagia is a swallowing disorder, whereby individuals may have difficulties swallowing food, liquid and/or saliva.

There are three different types of Dysphagia:

- Oral Dysphagia: Difficulties associated with the mouth. People may have difficulties chewing, or transporting food to the back of the throat

- Oropharyngeal Dysphagia: Difficulties associated with the throat. People may have difficulties initiating the swallow or clearing the throat

- Esophageal Dysphagia: Difficulties experienced in the esophagus. People may have difficulties passing food through the esophagus into the stomach

Common causes of Dysphagia may include the following:

- Neurological: E.g. Brain Injury, Parkinson’s Disease, Dementia, Stroke

- Respiratory: E.g. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Pneumonia

- Cancer: E.g. Head and neck cancer

- Gastrointestinal: E.g. Reflux or GERD (Gasoesophageal reflux disease)

Dysphagia or swallowing difficulties can lead to serious medical conditions including choking and/or death, aspiration pneumonia (infection in the lungs), weight loss or poor appetite and malnutrition and dehydration.

Speech Pathologists have a fundamental role in assessing, treating and managing Dysphagia. The type of treatment varies depending on the type of Dysphagia. In addition, it is important to take into consideration signs/symptoms, medical conditions and cognition, along with many other factors.

Who can benefit from assessment and therapy of swallowing?

If any of the following symptoms apply:

- Repeated chest infection and/or pneumonia

- Drooling, saliva or food/fluid pooling from the mouth

- Difficulties chewing

- Food sticking in the mouth or throat

- Avoiding specific food types such as tough food textures

- Taking a long time to finish meals

- People with neurodegenerative conditions

If any of these issues are familiar, Speech Pathology intervention can assist you.

It is important that decisions are collaborative and involve the individual and their significant other and medical team including their carers, doctors and family members.

Talk to us today to find out how we can support.


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