Dysphagia, also known as a swallowing disorder, affects a person’s ability to eat or drink. While the severity of this can vary, common symptoms can include; difficulty chewing or moving food around the mouth, the sensation of feeling food stuck in the throat, or coughing/choking episodes. The fact that people with dysphagia look normal can create misunderstandings amongst loved ones and feelings of isolation for the individual themselves as they try to navigate life with their swallowing challenges. It is important to talk to a doctor if feeling any of the aforementioned symptoms for it could be a sign of larger disease progress.
Once diagnosed with dysphagia, it is important to know that therapy can be done to help remediate the swallowing process. A speech-language pathologist can review your diagnosis from your doctor and the imaging that was done and come up with an effective treatment plan. Generally, the treatment plan includes; exercises to rehabilitate the strength, coordination, and/or timing of the muscles involved in swallowing, education and training on the strategies that can make swallowing easier or decrease symptoms, and changes in positioning or modifying textures of foods or liquids.
Navigating life with dysphagia can have its challenges, but developing a true understanding of what is happening and being devoted to the exercises offered by your speech-language pathologist can help in taking effective steps forward.