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.