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Dysphagia is another term for swallowing disorder in which a person faces difficulty passing solids or liquids from the mouth to the stomach. He/she may also face difficulties while taking medicines and even while breathing. These people may often lack pharyngeal reflex, or the sensation of swallowing the food. They face difficulties in controlling food or saliva in the mouth, and it is caused due to some paralysis in the throat muscles. Unfortunately, people having Dysphagia are sometimes unaware of having the disorder.

Dysphagia is mostly faced by patients who remain in the hospital for a long time. Although there are many reasons that cause swallowing problems, however, it mostly occurs after a stroke. It is because a stroke affects the brain which hampers a person’s ability to control the muscular movements of the throat and the epiglottis (a flap of elastic cartilage that closes so as to help one swallow solids or liquids down the esophagus or the food pipe). As a result, the risks of inhaling food, commonly known as aspiration, increases, which causes choking and other swallowing disorders, and may even lead to pneumonia. Therefore, a good swallowing problem treatment becomes extremely necessary and it is very important to prevent it by controlling the food intake.

Here are certain preventive measures that must be kept in mind while feeding a person suffering from Dysphagia:

  • The liquid consistency of liquid foods should be checked so that it can be easily swallowed by the patient. Depending on the swallowing test performed by a certified Speech Language Pathologist, they will recommend a particular consistency for the liquid based on the Dysphagia patient’s requirements and his/her ability to swallow. Also, liquid thickeners are recommended at good swallowing problem treatment clinics so as to bring any liquid to the correct consistency. However, some patients complain that their thirst is not quenched and the liquid does not taste good. In such a case, lemon ice can be used, as they are very good thirst quenchers.


  • Like liquids, the consistency or texture of food should also be checked as recommended by Speech Language Pathologist at recognised centres for swallowing problem treatment, based on the Dysphagia patient’s ability to chew and swallow it. It is also suggested that the food should not be crunchy and crispy, and raw vegetables should also be avoided. It should be as moist and softened as possible, so that the person can easily gulp it down the esophagus or the food pipe. It is always better to have soft foods which are of minced, grinded or even pureed consistencies. In short, the food must be as less chewy as possible. However, many people refuse eating such food, and in that case, spices may be added so as to improve its taste.


  • One useful tip is to make the patient avoid ‘pouching’, that is to hold the food back in the cheeks for a long time. It can be very frustrating for the person feeding the Dysphagia patient. Therefore, some speech therapists dealing with swallowing problem treatment recommend stroking the sides of the patient’s cheeks to encourage them to chew and swallow their food.


  • As mentioned earlier, lemon ice can be given to the patient after every bite of food, as it acts as a very good swallowing reflex stimulator.


  • Some exercises and sitting postures while eating, like tucking the chin to the chest, rotating the head, etc., are recommended by Speech pathologists depending on the type of Dysphagia, so that the patient can find it easier to swallow the solids or liquids. It is also recommended to start eating slowly and with smaller amounts of food, without getting distracted too often. Growing this habit is very effective for a majority of swallowing problem treatment procedures. So, you must closely monitor the patient so as to make him/her avoid choking, coughing, gagging and other such signs of aspiration. It is your responsibility to make a safe and friendly atmosphere while the Dysphagia patient is eating.


  • However, some Speech pathologists at good swallowing problem treatment clinics also recommend providing health supplements as the Dysphagia patient might not receive all the essential nutrients from the food they are required to eat.


Being a caring family member of the person suffering from Dysphagia, it needs patience on your part to feed him/her, and you must give the person sufficient time to make him/her get used to it. It should be kept in mind that if an early intervention into swallowing problem treatment, that is the issue of Dysphagia is not properly handled, then it might lead to malnutrition and dehydration, and also various respiratory problems gradually, such as pneumonia and other respiratory infections, as mentioned earlier. Also, the patient needs your mental support and must be motivated so as to make his or her life much easier.



A person suffering from swallowing disorders, also termed as Dysphagia, faces difficulties in eating, drinking, taking medicines and even breathing. It is caused when there is a paralysis of the throat muscles. People suffering from swallowing disorders are often unaware of having it. Commonly, Dysphagia refers to the sensation of having difficulties in passing solids or liquids from the mouth to the stomach. It needs early attention and proper treatment procedures should be undergone without any delay.

There are many good swallowing disorder therapy centres that house professional Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs). They have declared certain symptoms of Dysphagia, which are:

  • Poor tongue control
  • Liquid or semi-solids coming out of nose after trying to swallow
  • Loss of pharyngeal reflex or gag reflex and food getting caught in lungs
  • Difficulty starting to swallow and choking when food gets stuck
  • Having a weak voice
  • Coughing or gagging while eating or drinking
  • Having a sensation that food is stuck in the throat or chest
  • Persistent drooling or salivating
  • Difficulty initiating a swallow as the bolus cannot be properly pushed by the tongue into the throat. This happens with neurological problems.

According to the Speech Language Pathologists at good centres for swallowing disorder therapy, the causes of Dysphagia can be classified into two broad categories, namely –

  • Oropharyngeal – caused from problems in the mouth or pharynx
  • Esophageal – caused from problems in the esophagus or the food pipe

Apart from these, there are other specific causes of Dysphagia as discussed by well-known SLPs at clinics dealing with swallowing disorder therapy, like physical obstruction of the pharynx or esophagus, diseases of the brain or neurological disorders, diseases of the smooth muscle of the esophagus, diseases of skeletal muscle of the pharynx, and miscellaneous diseases.

Under the physical obstruction of the pharynx or esophagus category, there are several causes of Dysphagia, like benign and malignant tumors of the pharynx and esophagus and the tissues surrounding these organs, narrowing of the esophagus (strictures), Schatzki’s rings or very short narrowings at the lower end of the esophagus, infiltrating diseases of the esophagus, congenital and other abnormalities of the esophagus. Most clinics of swallowing disorder therapy opined that several neurological and cerebral diseases like stroke, tumors of the brainstem, degenerative diseases of the brain and the motor nerves of the brain may cause Dysphagia. It can even be caused after one has undergone a radiotherapy treatment, as it causes scar tissue which narrows the passageway in the throat and the esophagus.

Some muscular disorders in the esophagus like Achalasia, Scleroderma, ineffective peristalsis and spastic motility disorders, may also cause swallowing disorders. There are certain diseases of the skeletal muscles of the pharynx that many professional SLPs at good swallowing disorder therapy centres have declared as the causes of Dysphagia. They are Polymyositis, Myasthenia gravis, muscular dystrophies and metabolic myopathies. Infections like Tuberculosis can also cause swallowing problems due to the inflammation of esophagus.

Other miscellaneous diseases that are responsible for Dysphagia include reduced saliva, Alzheimer’s disease, and others. Apart from these there are also some congenital (present from birth) and developmental conditions that can cause Dysphagia and these include cerebral palsy and gap or split in the upper lip or in the roof of the mouth (cleft lip and palate).

If you have the above mentioned symptoms, then consult a recognized Speech Language Pathologist at a good clinic for swallowing disorder therapy without further delay. He/ she will carry out a detailed assessment of your general health and your previous medical histories (if any), and start your treatment accordingly. He/she may even refer you to other specialists for further diagnostic tests and treatments depending on the cause of Dysphagia. Some common treatments done at most centres of swallowing disorder therapy are as follows:

  • Dietary changes – certain dietary changes may effectively cure swallowing disorders.
  • Changing texture or thickness of the food – start by chewing and swallowing smaller particles of food, by chopping and smashing it as it will easily go down your esophagus.
  • Therapy – swallowing disorder therapy is the most common treatment for Dysphagia and is done by trained Speech Language Pathologists.
  • Exercise – certain exercises related to the tongue, lips, mouth and throat cures many swallowing disorders as it stimulates the nerves. These exercises include changing the sitting position and posture, reducing distractions at mealtime, eating properly and slowly so as to avoid choking and inhaling food into the lungs, and the like.

To sum up, if you delay visiting a good centre dealing with swallowing disorder therapy, then your Dysphagia might start showing several other complications that might be dangerous for your health. Hence, visit your SLP today if you are having any of the above symptoms of Dysphagia.

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