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Swallowing Disorders - Dysphagia Printer Friendly Version Printer Friendly Version Share

Swallowing disorders , also called dysphagia (dis-FAY-juh), can occur at different stages in the swallowing process:

  • Oral phase – chewing, sucking and/or moving food or liquid into the throat
  • Pharyngeal phase – starting the swallowing reflex, squeezing food down the throat, and closing off the airway to prevent food or liquid from entering the airway (aspiration) or to prevent choking
  • Esophageal phase – relaxing and tightening the openings at the top and bottom of the feeding tube in the throat (esophagus) and squeezing food through the esophagus into the stomach

Signs & Symptoms of Swallowing Disorders

Several diseases, conditions, or surgical interventions can result in swallowing problems.

Generally, signs may include:

  • Coughing during or right after eating or drinking
  • hoarse, or wet/gurgly sounding voice during or after eating or drinking
  • Difficulty or extra effort/time needed to chew or swallow 
  • Food or liquid leaking from the mouth or getting stuck in the mouth
  • Recurring pneumonia or chest congestion after eating
  • Poor nutrition or dehydration


Diagnosing & Treating Swallowing Disorders

A speech-language pathologist (SLP) who specializes in swallowing disorders can evaluate individuals who are experiencing problems eating and drinking. The SLP will assess your medical history, conditions and symptoms, the strength and movement of the muscles involved in swallowing, as well as posture, behavior, and oral movements during eating and drinking. Special tests are available to help evaluate swallowing disorders, including:

  • Modified barium swallow (patient eats or drinks food or liquid with barium in it, and then the swallowing process is viewed on an X-ray
  • Endoscopic assessment – using a lighted scope inserted through the nose, the swallow can be viewed on a screen

Treatment depends on the cause, symptoms, and type of swallowing problem, and may include:

  • Exercises to improve muscle movement
  • Positions or strategies to help you swallow more effectively
  • Specific food and liquid textures that are easier and safer to swallow

For help finding a physician or speech-language pathologist, call our HealthLine referral team at (941) 917-7777.

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