Have you felt as if something is stuck in your throat or notice that you have been coughing a lot during or after meals?
Dysphagia refers to difficulties with swallowing. From that initial bite of a burger to the mechanics of chewing and swallowing that bite, swallowing involves many processes! We can break down the mechanics of swallowing into three phases:
- Oral Phase: This step involves the biting, chewing, and sucking of the food/liquid material.
- Pharyngeal Phase: This step involves the initiation of the swallow, downward projection of the food/liquid, and closing of your airway to ensure the item don’t go down the “wrong pipe” (airway into the lungs).
- Esophageal Phase: This step involves the transition and travel of food/liquids from your esophagus to your stomach.
Swallowing difficulties can occur at any of the phases above. While it is common to have water go down the “wrong pipe” every now and then, swallowing difficulties often occur after trauma (e.g. stroke, brain injury), progressive neurological disease (e.g. Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Cerebral Palsy, Alzheimer’s Disease), head and neck cancer, vocal fold damage secondary to intubation (e.g. COVID), and post-surgical procedures (e.g. thyroidectomy, laryngectomy).
Here are common symptoms:
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, you may benefit from a swallowing evaluation from a speech-language pathologist. We can help improve your swallow function and increase your quality of life!