Dysphagia – Diagnosis and Treatment
Each medical condition that causes dysphagia can affect different phases of the swallow. Treatment advice may vary, according to the part of the swallow which is affected. It is important to visit your medical practitioner if you are having di culty with any part of chewing or swallowing.
Your GP will carry out an initial assessment and may refer you to another healthcare professional for tests. You may be referred to a speech and language therapist (SLT), a neurologist, a gastroenterologist, a geriatrician or ear nose and throat (ENT) specialist.
You can find in-depth details of different tests and treatment on the NHwebsitete:
To examine your swallow in detail you may be referred for a video fluoroscopy swallowing assessment. This is like a live video x-ray which is recorded. You may be asked to swallow food and liquids of different thicknesses. The food and liquid contain barium which will show up on the video x-ray. The video can be viewed to see exactly how your swallow works.
Sometimes food or liquid travels the wrong way, into the airway, this is because the epiglottis has not closed in time. This is known as aspiration.
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Food or liquid entering the airway is known as aspiration. This would normally make a person cough involuntarily; a cough is one of the protective mechanisms of the lungs. Some medical conditions can weaken the strength of this cough mechanism. If food or liquid enters the lungs and cannot be coughed up it can lead to a chest infection.
The image on the right shows what happens: Arrow(A) points to liquid which is aspirating and entering the patient’s airway. All of the fluid should be travelling down the oesophagus (arrow B) into the stomach, this person has dysphagia.
A 2013 study discovered that as many as 40% of people in permanent-care settings are dysphagic and between 50% to 75% of nursing home residents have some difficulty in swallowing (1). Given that this is such a prevalent problem, and that so many carers are confronted...
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