Updated: Jul 6, 2020
Dysphagia is the medical term for swallowing difficulties. Some people with dysphagia have problems swallowing certain foods or liquids, while others can't swallow at all.
Most of us enjoy eating and drinking supports good health and brings enjoyment. Some people, however, experience difficulty with the process of swallowing, a condition known as dysphagia.
This condition can lead to other health issues, such as poor nutrition, dehydration, pneumonia and other respiratory conditions.
For treatment, you may be referred to a speech-language pathologist to improve the strength of your swallowing muscles.
Dysphagia can be caused by certain medical conditions, including:
Cancer of the mouth or throat
Neurological diseases, such as Parkinson's or ALS
Age-related changes in older adults
If you experience any of these problems, discuss them with your physician:
Food or liquid spilling out of your mouth
Unintentional weight loss
Frequent throat clearing
Change in voice sound after eating and drinking
Feeling of food getting caught in your throat
Bringing food back up (regurgitation)
Having frequent heartburn.
A speech-language pathologist, also known as a speech therapist or clinician, will begin by asking you questions and testing the strength and movement of your jaw, lips and tongue.
The clinician will then perform one or more of the several swallowing assessments:
Clinical (bedside) swallow evaluation. You will consume a variety of foods and liquids while the clinician watches and makes note of any outward sign of difficulty.
Modified barium swallow (MBS). You will be asked to swallow small portions of specially flavored barium in different thicknesses. Both clinician and a radiologist watch via imaging as the barium passes through your throat, documenting any variation from normal swallowing.
Flexible endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES). A narrow scope is passed into your throat through the nose so the clinician can observe what is happening in the throat while you swallow foods and liquids.
Your clinician will develop an individualized treatment plan after viewing the studies which may include:
Modification of diet textures and consistencies
Strategies to improve swallowing ease and safety
You will learn exercises designed to improve the movement and strength of the muscles involved in swallowing.
You will learn techniques to improve the safety of swallowing during meals.
You will learn about the food textures and liquid consistencies that are most appropriate for you.
You will be empowered with a personalized "in home" program to continue strengthening between therapy sessions.
The goal of SFS Therapies is to you the means to achieve a safe swallow that supports your nutritional and hydration needs while allowing you to enjoy the widest variety of food textures and liquid consistencies possible.