What is Dysphagia?

Dysphagia is defined as difficulty swallowing. It may exist in one or all three phases of the swallow (oral, pharyngeal and esophageal). During a normal swallow, food is introduced into the mouth and chewed. Food is then moved to the back of the mouth by the upward/backward movement of the tongue. The swallow response is triggered. As the food is swallowed, it passes through the throat. The airway closes to protect the lungs and the food is propelled through the esophagus and into the stomach.

What are the signs of Dysphagia?

What swallowing guidelines should be followed?

  • Difficulty initiating a swallow (holding food in the mouth)
  • Coughing or choking during or after eating/drinking
  • Needing to swallow 2-3 times to clear the food/liquid from the mouth
  • Food remaining in the mouth after the swallow
  • Food or liquid draining from the mouth
  • Wet/gurgly-sounding voice
  • Excessive drooling, a large am
  • ount of extra secretions
  • Increased body temperature
Increased chest congestion or pneumonia due to food or liquid going into the lungs
  • Always sit upright, well-supported in the bed or chair
  • Eat/drink slowly and carefully
  • Do not talk while swallowing
  • Check your mouth for pocketed food
  • Make sure you are fully alert while eating
  • Do not attempt to eat if you are very short of breath
  • Limit distractions during the meal so you can concentrate
  • Follow all suggestions/recommendations made by the SLP (Speech-Language Pathologist)
  • Make sure your mouth is kept very clean
Be sure to notify your nurse or SLP if you have any problems or concerns about your swallowing

How is Dysphagia treated?

The SLP will provide you with individualized swallowing guidelines that should be followed whenever you eat, drink or take medications. In addition, swallowing exercises and stimulation techniques will be used to strengthen the muscles. Also, the SLP may recommend that the texture of your foods and liquids be changed or altered with severe dysphagia, you may be "NPO." This means you will not receive food or drink by mouth. Tube feedings may be required.