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  • Writer's pictureEngage PT, OT, SLP Therapy and Wellness

Dysphagia Awareness Month - What is dysphagia?


Diagram of dysphagia

Dysphagia is difficulty swallowing or a swallowing disorder. Not all swallowing problems are dysphagia — it is normal to have occasional difficulty swallowing certain foods or liquids, such as when taking large bites of food. However, ongoing difficulty swallowing could be a cause for concern. Dysphagia may affect your quality of life and overall health.

In order to understand dysphagia, it will be helpful to understand what happens with a normal swallow. Swallowing is a complex process that requires multiple muscles to work together. When you swallow:

  • Your tongue moves food or liquid in your mouth to the back of your throat.

  • As food enters the throat, a small flap called the epiglottis covers the windpipe to direct food toward the stomach and prevent you from inhaling it.

  • Once food enters the esophagus (the tube connecting the throat and the stomach), muscles push the food down into the stomach.

  • A ring of muscles at the bottom end of the esophagus opens up to empty the food into the stomach.

Dysphagia can occur in any of the three phases of swallowing: oral, pharyngeal and esophageal.

Oral - when the problem is in the mouth, usually due to the movement of the tongue Pharyngeal - when the problem is regarding food passing through the throat Esophageal - when food is unable to move down through the esophagus

A problem in one or more of these areas can make it difficult to swallow.

Dysphagia can occur at any age, but it's more common in older adults. The causes of swallowing problems vary, and treatment depends on the cause.

Noticing any changes or concerns discussed above? Call Engage Therapy and Wellness in Syracuse NY today to set up an evaluation at 315-810-2423 or email info@brainbodybetter.com.

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