Most of us enjoy eating and drinking supports good health and brings enjoyment. Some people, however, experience difficulty with the process of swallowing, a condition knows as dysphagia.
This condition can lead to other health issues, such as poor nutrition, dehydration, pneumonia and other respiratory conditions.
For treatment, you may be referred to a speech-language pathologist to improve the strength of your swallowing muscles.
Dysphagia can be caused by certain medical conditions, including:
- Traumatic injury
- Cancer of the mouth or throat
- Neurological diseases, such as Parkinson's or ALS
- Age-related changes in older adults
If you experience any of these problems, discuss them with your physician:
- Food or liquid spilling out of your mouth
- Trouble chewing
- Prolonged meal times
- Unintentional weight loss
- Frequent throat clearing
- Change in voice sound when eating and drinking
- Feeling of food getting caught in your throat
A speech-language pathologist, also known as a speech therapist, will begin by asking you questions and testing the strength and movement of your jaw, lips and tongue.
The therapist will thenl perform several swallowing assessments:
- Clinical swallow evaluation. You will consume a variety of foods and liquids while the therapist watches and makes note of any outward sign of difficulty.
- Modified barium swallow (MBS). You will be asked to swallow small portions of specially flavored barium in different thicknesses. Both a speech therapist and a radiologist watch via imaging as the barium passes through your throat, documenting any variation from normal swallowing.
- Flexible endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES). A narrow scope is passed into your throat through the nose so the therapist can observe what is happening in the throat while you swallow foods and liquids.
Your therapist will develop an individualized treatment plan that may include:
- Modification of diet textures and consistencies
- Strategies to improve swallowing ease and safety
- Swallowing therapy
Therapy sessions last 45 minutes. During this time:
- You will be taught exercises designed to improve the movement and strength of the muscles involved in swallowing.
- You will also be taught techniques to improve the safety of swallowing during meals.
- Some patients receive electrical stimulation of the swallowing muscles to enhance the benefits of therapy.
- You will learn about the food textures and liquid consistencies that are most appropriate for you.
- You will be given a personalized program to follow at home to continue strengthening between therapy sessions.
Our goal is to help you achieve a safe swallow that supports your nutritional and hydration needs while allowing you to enjoy the widest variety of food textures and liquid consistencies possible.
Physician referral is required. To learn more, call 714-456-6682.