WHAT IS DYSPHAGIA?
Dysphagia is a medical term used to describe difficulty swallowing, be it an obstruction in the throat or oesophagus, or a problem with the swallow co-ordination.
While typically more common in babies and the elderly, dysphagia is caused by multiple diseases e.g. Stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease and can affect people of all ages. Dysphagia can cause additional health problems, and should therefore be diagnosed and treated appropriately.
Many rhythmic or repetitive functions are taken for granted until they become problematic, e.g., breathing, chewing and swallowing. However, when there is a problem in one of these functions, it can have a serious impact on people’s quality of life. Dysphagia, defined as difficulty swallowing or the feeling of an obstruction while swallowing, is one such problem.
Causes of dysphagia include disease or damage to the nervous system, spasms of the muscles in the oesophagus or other conditions that physically block the oesophagus or cause it to narrow.1* Impaired saliva production, or dry mouth, can also make dysphagia worse.
While dysphagia causes eating and drinking to be uncomfortable, it can also cause serious health problems. Because many people with this condition do not seek or receive a proper diagnosis or medical treatment, they eat and drink less which can lead to malnutrition and dehydration, weight loss, respiratory infections and even social problems such as avoiding eating with others.
Dysphagia is a common condition, affecting around 14 percent of the population over 50 years of age.2 As patients with dysphagia may have trouble getting sufficient nutrition, adapting their eating and drinking is an important step to managing their condition and a sufficient treatment for dysphagia. At Nestlé Health Science, we are actively developing innovative nutritional therapies for conditions like dysphagia with the goal of improving patients’ quality of life.
Eat the right kinds of food
Since dysphagia makes swallowing difficult, patients should adapt their diet to compensate. Eating pureed food, taking smaller bites and avoiding dry foods are all ways to ingest nutritious foods while avoiding difficulty swallowing.1
- http://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/side-effects/difficulty-swallowing-or-dysphagia. Accessed December 2014.
A Speech Pathologist can help
Speech Pathologists are trained to help people with all kinds of oral conditions. A consultation with a speech pathologist may provide useful information about types of foods and even exercises that can be done to help with dysphagia.1
Sit up straight and let gravity help
While the muscles of the oesophagus are important in delivering food to the stomach, gravity can also help keep food moving. Eating while sitting upright and avoiding lying down after meals are ways to help improve swallowing problems that come with dysphagia.1
- https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/swallowing-problems#1. Accessed December 2014.
How big of a problem is dysphagia in aged care?
Julie Cichero is an internationally recognised Speech Pathologist, and co-chair for the Board of the International Dysphagia Diet Standardisation Initiative (http://iddsi.org/).
At a recent Nutrition Essentials Meeting, Julie discussed some of the issues in the management of dysphagia.
RESOURCE® THICKENUP® products
RESOURCE® THICKENUP® Clear is food for special medical purposes for the dietary management of people with swallowing difficulties.
Must be used under medical supervision.