Dysphagia is the medical term for swallowing difficulties, which may be due to problems with the tongue, the roof of the mouth, muscles of the throat, the food passage or its valves.
Dysphagia varies in severity, and more commonly affects older people. The condition can lead to serious health problems such as malnutrition and pneumonia, and should therefore be diagnosed and treated appropriately.
Many rhythmic or repetitive behaviors 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 quality of life. Dysphagia is the medical term for swallowing difficulties, which may be due to problems with the tongue, the roof of the mouth, muscles of the throat, the food passage or its valves.
Dysphagia results from many conditions such as stroke, Motor Neurone disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, head and neck cancer, head injury and others.1
While dysphagia makes eating and drinking uncomfortable, it can also cause serious health problems including malnutrition, dehydration, and respiratory infections, which can ultimately lead to death.
Dysphagia has been estimated to affect 13% of community dwelling elders, approximately 25% of hospitalised individuals and rises to 60% or more of elderly residents living in long term care facilities.1
As people with dysphagia may have trouble achieving sufficient nutrition and hydration, adapting their eating and drinking is an important step to managing the condition. Thickened fluids and modified food textures are often part of the nutrition care plan.
At Nestlé Health Science, we are actively developing innovative nutritional therapies for conditions like dysphagia with the goal of improving quality of life.
1 Cichero J 2013 Thickening agents used for dysphagia management: effect on bioavailability of water, medication and feelings of satiety. Nutrition Journal 12:54