Recognizing the Signs of Dysphagia & Other Swallowing Problems
Dysphagia is a medical term used to describe swallowing problems. The term itself is derived from the Greek root “dys” meaning difficulty or disordered; and, “phagia” meaning to eat.
The Swallowing Process
Getting food from the mouth to the stomach can use up to 40 pairs of muscles and 8 nerves. Once food or liquid is placed in the mouth, the tongue and saliva work together to prepare it to move to the stomach. Saliva not only moistens food, it also triggers the swallowing reflex which sends a message to the larynx (voicebox) to close so food doesn’t travel down the trachea into the lungs.
Typically, the pharynx opens, allowing food to travel through the esophagus into the stomach.
People who have dysphagia and swallowing problems experience a disruption in the process.
What Causes Dysphagia & Swallowing Problems Dysphagia and swallowing problems can come about at birth (cleft palate), can be developed with persons who have diseases of the central nervous system or as a result from stoke. Additionally, this condition can occur from various types of head, neck or esophageal cancer, from injuries sustained in an accident, or medications.
Dysphagia & Related Swallowing Problems
Anyone who thinks they may have dysphagia or is experiencing swallowing problems should consult their physician. If diagnosed by a physician, patients will often meet with a Speech Language Pathologist to examine the individual’s swallowing process. From that point, treatment may include learning how to swallow in a new way.