Dysphagia is a swallowing problem and is a common result of having a stroke, amongst other serious health problems. In this article, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about dysphagia, what it is, what it is caused by, and how to treat it.
Dysphagia is Essentially a Swallowing Problem
Dysphagia is simply the medical term given to encompass all swallowing difficulties. Swallowing difficulties can be a problem for head and neck cancer survivors, stroke survivors, people suffering from Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Dysphagia can mean that patients have trouble swallowing certain food or liquids and, in some extreme cases, cannot swallow at all.
It’s fairly easy to spot and diagnose dysphagia. Patients will show signs that are visible to the naked eye, and these include: coughing and spluttering when eating and drinking; drooling and not being able to swallow saliva; verbally complaining of not being able to swallow, or that food seems to be stuck in their throat; inability to chew food; and a distinct gurgling noise when eating and drinking. Over time, dysphagia can cause a rapidly diminished quality of life, chest infections, weight loss and health conditions associated with sudden weight loss.
A cure for dysphagia isn’t always possible but, with proper treatment, the physical symptoms of dysphagia can be greatly improved. The key to treating dysphagia is to minimize the effect on the patient’s quality of life. Eating, drinking and swallowing are huge parts of every person’s life and something that most people take for granted. When it becomes difficult for someone to carry out these basic, everyday functions, it can be easy to develop anxiety and depression disorders.
Treatments for dysphagia include speech and language therapy, in which the patient will learn new swallowing techniques. Also, surgery can be carried out to widen the esophagus, making it easy to digest foods. Sometimes, dysphagia can be significantly improved by using a thickener, like those produced at SimplyThick. Changing the consistency of food can make them safer for patients to swallow.
Providing Mental Support
It is important to acknowledge the impact that a condition like dysphagia can have on a patient’s mental health. Dysphagia can be an isolating condition and, as it makes everyday tasks like eating and drinking so hard, it is one that needs a lot of support. If someone you know is suffering from dysphagia, make sure they know that they are not alone and that you will provide them with support. This can include ensuring that they are getting an adequate calorie intake, whether that’s from using a food thickener or a feeding tube. Check in with them regularly, and point them towards support groups and any other resources you are aware of that they can access.
Dysphagia can be a scary and isolating side effect of many serious health conditions. With proper treatment, dysphagia can be managed to a degree where it does not seriously affect the patient’s quality of life.