Swallowing Awareness Day: What is Dysphagia?

Wednesday 13th of March was Swallowing Awareness Day - and we would like to share with you the importance of swallowing difficulties.

Swallowing is a common, everyday thing that people do, even when we sleep, with not much of thought process going into the action of swallowing. Just like breathing, it is an important part of life!

Can you imagine having difficulty doing things that are done everyday such as eating, drinking and just swallowing saliva? This is what around one million people in Australia experience daily. Consequently, this can cause distress, frustration and embarrassment for them. Dysphagia is the term used to describe difficulty swallowing or swallowing disorders. It includes any problem with sucking, swallowing, drinking, chewing, eating, dribbling and controlling saliva, closing lips so nothing comes out, taking medication, or protecting the lungs from food and drink ‘going down the wrong way’.

What to look out for:

Early signs of Dysphagia are coughing, gagging or choking when eating and drinking. Also, experiencing the following:

  • Pain while swallowing

  • Inability to swallow

  • Food getting stuck in throat or chest

  • Drooling

  • Being hoarse

  • Unexpectedly losing weight

  • Having to cut food into smaller pieces due to being unable to swallow it

The consequence of having a swallowing problem can mean food, liquid or saliva get into the lungs potentially causing pneumonia. Reflux is also a problem for Dysphagia sufferers, as food, liquid and stomach acid leaks from the stomach and moves up into the oesophagus, sometimes reaching the throat and mouth. This could be very uncomfortable.

Some tips to help:

  • Changing the texture of foods and drinks consumed

  • Learning swallowing techniques that involve placing food or body in places to assist with swallowing

  • Exercises to help your muscles functionality and stimulate nerves that trigger the swallowing reflex

  • Taking medication to decrease stomach acid reflux and your oesophagus

  • Speak to a professional, such as a speech pathologist

If more support is required, please come in and see one of our speech pathologists. They can provide a thorough assessment and provide the necessary treatment to help with any swallowing difficulties.

To find out more about our speech pathology services or book an appointment with one of our speech pathologists, give our team a call on (03) 9882-8874.

*Please note: some of the information is from Speech Pathology Australia