Identifying Dysphagia

Dysphagia is more commonly known, as swallowing difficulties can be an identifier of other, more serious conditions.

It can happen at any age and at any time
It can happen at any age and at any time

Although, dysphagia itself is serious enough, some cannot swallow certain food and drink and others find that they cannot swallow at all. Due to its restrictive nature it can lead to a manner of complications.

In an interview with Mosaic Science, 39-year-old, Samantha Anderson from Australia woke with no swallowing ability and discovered it by choking on a piece of toast. This unraveled a plethora of health issues including having to survive via a feeding tube inserted through her abdominal wall and into her stomach. She said:

“I was staring death in the face.”

She lost over 30 pounds in weight and became housebound. Dysphagia can hit both the young and the old, and somehow its repercussions still confuse doctors and it doesn’t receive a lot of public attention. It has been named an invisible disorder and a silent epidemic. It distorts eating, which isn’t just a physical necessity but also a way for a social species, like us, to bond, relax and enjoy our favourite foods.

Types of Dysphagia
Types of Dysphagia

Signs of Dysphagia include:

• Difficulty when trying to swallow
• Coughing and choking during or after meals
• Wet voice during or after meals
• Weight loss and/or dehydration
• Difficulty with certain textures of foods
• Pocketing of food in the mouth
• Regurgitating food
• Frequent fevers or chest infections

It is usually caused by a different health condition, like; a condition that affects the nervous system, such as a stroke, head injury, or dementia, cancer or gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD). Risk of dysphagia is raised with age, as well as smoking, overuse of alcohol, certain medications and poor oral hygiene including your teeth and dentures. Therefore, keeping good oral hygiene is key.

Eating and Drinking may prove a challenge
Eating and Drinking may prove a challenge

In the same article from Mosaic Science, suffering dyshagia is described as feeling like being constantly water boarded. This is due to the fact that sufferers can choke on a litre and a half of saliva each day. One of the most common problems is coughing or choking when food goes down the “wrong way” and blocks your airway. It’s believed that this could lead to pneumonia and chest infections, although, avoiding eating can lead to malnutrition and dehydration. So here’s how you can treat this condition:

• Speech and language therapy to learn new swallowing techniques
• Changing the consistency of food and liquids to make them safer to swallow
• Alternative forms of feeding, such as tube feeding through the nose or stomach
• Surgery to widen the narrowing of the oesophagus by stretching it or inserting a plastic or metal tube (known as a stent)

Dysphagia is still a bit of a curiosity
Dysphagia is still a bit of a curiosity

A cure may not always be possible but the affects of it can be lessened over time with treatment. If you feel like you have trouble swallowing or any symptoms relating to dysphagia it is recommended that you visit your GP as soon as you can.


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