The medical term for difficulty swallowing is dysphagia.
Difficulty eating, drinking or managing saliva may develop for a number of reasons, including:
• Brain injury – stroke or traumatic head injury
• Neurological conditions – such as Parkinson’s Disease, Motor Neurone Disease, Huntington’s Disease
• Cognitive problems – such as dementia
• Cancer and subsequent treatment
• Some ageing factors can impact on the swallowing process
• Some medications may also affect the swallowing process either as a result of side-effects, or by causing drowsiness.
Some indicators of swallowing problems include:
• Coughing before, during or after a meal or drink
• History of chest infections
• Gurgly voice quality
• Drooling of saliva
• Weight loss
Swallowing problems may originate in the mouth, in the throat, or in the oesophagus.
Swallowing difficulties may be only slight, such as difficulty swallowing tablets, or they may be more severe – interfering with enjoyment of everyday eating and drinking.
Swallowing difficulties can be life-threatening. They may result in choking incidents, chronic chest infections, and in some cases malnutrition and dehydration.