Dysphagia (dis-FAY-ja) is a swallowing problem. This problem may be caused by weakness or loss of feeling in your tongue, lips, palate and/or throat. You may notice:
Your swallowing problems may be caused by:
A doctor or speech-language pathologist (SLP) can determine if you have swallowing problems. There are many tests that can confirm if you have dysphagia:
Together, you, your health care provider and your speech-language pathologist will choose the test that's right for you.
Aspiration occurs when food or liquid goes down your windpipe (trachea). It can sometimes lead to pneumonia (infection or swelling of your lungs).
Signs of aspiration include:
Aspiration can cause pneumonia. Signs of pneumonia are:
Call your doctor right away if you are having shortness of breath or fever.
Choking and coughing are reflexes. They are caused by your body's instinct to protect itself from food or liquid going down your windpipe (trachea) and into your lungs.
Choking and coughing can be scary because they can be caused by serious problems. You can reduce your risk of choking. Here are some things you can do:
The speech-language pathologist may recommend one or more of the following to make swallowing safer:
You and your caregiver may also work with a dietitian, occupational therapist and nursing staff during swallowing treatment and recovery.
If your swallow is too weak or unsafe, you may need to get your nutrients by a tube. A feeding tube is passed through your nose and esophagus to your stomach. This will be used for short-term tube feedings.
If your recovery is slow, a gastrostomy tube is put through your abdominal wall into your stomach. This will be used for long-term tube feedings.
Your ability to swallow may improve during recovery. As your swallow improves, changes may be made to your diet, exercises or swallowing techniques. This speech-language pathologist will give you updates on your progress.
Allina Health's Patient Education Department, What You Should Know About Dysphagia, neuro-ahc-11677
Jane E Chandler, MA, CCC-SLP, speech-language pathologist, Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute
VitalStim® Therapy treats dysphagia through muscle re-education.