IS IT DYSPHAGIA

old man old man

IS IT DYSPHAGIA?

Difficulty swallowing food or drink may be dysphagia.

Dysphagia can impact health and well-being so it’s important to spot the signs. Older people and those with conditions such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, dementia, head and neck cancer or a history of stroke, may have difficulty swallowing.

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six symptoms of dysfafia

What is dysphagia?

Dysphagia is the medical term for swallowing difficulties.

What to watch out for

Someone who has swallowing problems may feel alone or avoid mealtimes with family or in social occasions. They might also not talk about the problem with family, friends or a healthcare professional. As a result, dysphagia may go unrecognized and undiagnosed and might not be treated properly.

Causes of dysphagia

Dysphagia is often caused by an illness, condition or disease that affects the nerves and muscles of the tongue, mouth and throat, and leads to problems coordinating and/or controlling the swallow. The causes may be different for people of different age groups. Children may experience dysphagia if they have cerebral palsy or developmental disabilities. In adults, dysphagia is more common with aging and may be caused by other issues such as general frailty or diseases/conditions such as stroke, head and neck cancer, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis or brain injuries.

The facts

  • Almost 14% of the population over the age 50 have clinical signs of dysphagia and 1 in 17 people will develop some form of dysphagia in their lifetime1,2

Dysphagia affects

  • 60% of frail people2
  • ~50% of people with head and neck cancer3
  • ~50% of people with acute stroke4

Difficulty swallowing can impact health and well-being

  • Dysphagia can be a serious medical condition and may impact health and well-being in a number of ways
  • Discomfort when swallowing drinks might mean enough fluids are not consumed and lead to dehydration.
  • Reduced food intake can lead to weight loss, malnutrition and decreased energy.
  • Food or liquid may go down the wrong way, and into the airway, leading to pneumonia or chest infections.
  • Dysphagia may significantly reduce the pleasure from eating and drinking favorite things. In some cases swallowing difficulties may even lead to embarrassment, social isolation and depression.


For further information on managing swallowing difficulties, click here.