Also known as Dysphagia, swallowing difficulties can arise from damage to the nervous system due to stroke, head injury or neurological illnesses. It can be a short or long-term condition.
When a person has difficulty swallowing, there is a risk food or fluids will enter the airway and can cause coughing or choking. If food or fluid enters the lungs it can cause chest infections or pneumonia. Dysphagia can also lead to malnutrition and dehydration as fear causes people to avoid eating or drinking.
Signs and symptoms of dysphagia to look out for include:
coughing or choking when eating and drinking
difficulty chewing food or clearing it from your mouth
a sensation of food sticking in the throat or chest
bringing food back up, often through the nose
weight loss or dehydration
repeated chest infections
A Speech and Language Therapist will assess a client's swallowing and make recommendations as to the safest consistency food and drink, as well as provide positioning techniques, advice and exercises to make swallowing safe and efficient. In some cases, a referral for a radiological study, known as a videofluoroscopy, may be necessary.
If someone does have concern about swallowing, they should always contact their GP immediately.