This week, we are raising awareness of dysphagia across the Trust and we’ll be sharing lots of information here and across our social media channels. Each day we will be sharing a blog from one of our colleagues.
Dysphagia is the medical term used for difficulties in swallowing food or drink. It can lead to coughing, discomfort, weight loss, dehydration, not wanting to eat or drink or taking a long time to eat and drink. In the worse case scenario, food and drink can end up in the lungs and cause chest infections or even death.
The swallow is a complex process involving the coordination of over 50 pairs of muscles and nerves to make sure that the food and drink travels safely into the stomach.
This safe passage can be affected by:
- Distraction (think about when you have a coughing fit when out for a meal). This can be due to what is going on around you, whether you are too hot or cold, the environment is too loud, bright or dark or too many other people are around, trying to talk or laugh at the same time as eating and drinking
- Muscle weakness e.g. as we get older (sarcopenia) or temporary e.g. after an operation
- Lack of sensitivity around the mouth and throat so that the body cannot recognise where the food or drink is
- Effects of illness or medication, including tiredness
- Lack of coordination, leading to food and drink ending up in the wrong place
- Anatomical abnormalities – parts of the mouth or throat not being the right shape, size or not being where they should be
- Developmental issues with the swallow not developing normally.
A Speech and Language Therapist can help to minimise the effects of any of these. They will aim to make eating and drinking as pleasant as possible for an individual while also trying to make it as safe as possible.
Helen, Speech and Language Therapist at 2gether