Swallowing/ Dysphagia
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woman bracing neck due to swallowing difficulty


Dysphagia is a swallowing disorder where a person has difficulty swallowing food/drink/saliva. It can occur anywhere along the swallowing tract, including the mouth, throat and esophagus. A person can have difficulty swallowing during any of the four stages of swallowing (oral prepatory, oral propulsive, pharyngeal and esophageal stages).

Dysphagia includes difficulty chewing or starting a swallow, moving food around in the mouth and feeling food/sticking in your throat.

Food or liquid “going down the wrong way” can cause coughing, choking (‘aspiration’) or throat clearing which can result in malnutrition (not eating enough food), dehydration (not drinking enough liquid) and complications such as pneumonia.

Dysphagia can occur after an illness or injury such as a stroke, head or neck injury or surgery, neurological diseases (such as ALS or Parkinson’s Disease) or cancer.


How can a Speech-Language Pathologist help?

Speech-Language pathologists can help in the following ways:

  • by assessing for signs of a swallowing disorder by examining test swallows at bedside
  • by administering tests to evaluate swallowing by using x-rays and barium (videofluroscopic swallowing studies (VFSS)) or by passing a tube and camera through the nose (fiberoptic endoscopic evaluations of swallowing (FEES))
  • by proposing diet modifications and alternative methods of feeding to ensure the safest and most efficient way of eating and drinking
  • by providing education and counseling to families and caregivers
  • by suggesting maneuvers and strategies to facilitate swallowing such as ways to position the body during mealtime, strategies to pace the speed of eating and oral strengthening exercises.

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