What is Dysphagia?

What is dysphagia?


In the US, over 15 million people currently suffers from dysphagia.

Dysphagia is the medical term for difficulty swallowing. Swallowing is and intricate and complex process that involves some 50 pairs of muscles, many nerves, and the brain to work together to bring food from your mouth to your stomach. The complexity of swallowing accounts for the large variety of different conditions that can interfere with this process. Difficulty swallowing can occur at any age, but dysphagia is more common in older adults. Occasional trouble swallowing should not be a cause for concern; however frequent difficulty swallowing may be result of a serious medical condition.

Signs and symptoms of difficulty swallowing may include:

  • Coughing when swallowing or after swallowing
  • Choking on food or drink
  • Sensation of food or pills getting stuck in your throat or chest
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Drooling
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Recurrent pneumonia of unknown origin
  • Bringing food back up (regurgitation)
  • Frequent Heartburn
  • Wet or gurgly sounding voice during or after eating/drinking
  • Extra effort or time needed to chew and swallow

dysphagia by the numbers
Dysphagia may be as high as 22% in those over 50 years of age. (ASHA 2008)

61% of adults admitted to acute trauma centers may have dysphagia. (ASHA 2008)

50 to 75 percent of stroke patients and 60 to 70 percent of patients who undergo radiation therapy for head and neck cancer have dysphagia. (Mann et al. 2000; Nguyen et al. 2006; Nguyen et al. 2008)

Dysphagia is prevalent in such neurological diseases as Parkinson’s Disease and 20-40% of patients with this condition have dysphagia. (ASHA 2008)

Over 30% of individuals with multiple sclerosis experience swallowing problems. (ASHA 2008).

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