Dysphagia, or impaired swallowing, can be an actual blockage of the throat, or a problem with the act of swallowing. While typically more common in the elderly, dysphagia has multiple causes and can affect people of all ages. Dysphagia can cause additional health problems and should therefore be diagnosed and treated appropriately.
Dysphagia is defined as difficulty swallowing. Persons with dysphagia might experience trouble with: swallowing, drinking, chewing, eating, sucking, controlling saliva, taking medication, or protecting the airway. Dysphagia can occur at any time during the lifespan and may be short or long term. The most common causes of dysphagia are related to underlying medical or physical conditions.
While dysphagia makes eating and drinking uncomfortable, it can also cause other serious health problems. Because many people with this condition do not seek or receive a proper diagnosis or medical treatment, eating and drinking less can lead to malnutrition and dehydration, weight loss, respiratory infections, and can even have a negative impact on social situations. Since dysphagia can lead to insufficient nutrition, adapting eating and drinking behaviour is an important step toward managing this condition.