Swallowing, like breathing, is an important bodily function for life sustenance. Have you ever wondered how many times you swallow a day? According to studies, you could be swallowing around 500 to 700 times per day. This also includes the swallows you do when you sleep. Swallowing is an act of taking in food/water from your mouth, which is then mixed with saliva and chewed with the help of teeth and tongue to make it into a fine paste. It is then passed on to a narrow passage called Pharynx and as it passes further, there is a leaf-shaped structure called Epiglottis that closes off the windpipe or the Trachea and prevents the food substances entering the windpipe. The food then finally passes through Esophagus (Food pipe) and enters the stomach.
If there is any disturbance in these areas, you would feel difficulty in swallowing food/water which is called “Dysphagia”. The disturbances could be due to any structural changes in the swallowing passage or it could be due to any neurological conditions. You would also find it difficult to swallow your tablets which can lead to poor quality of life.
The difficulties could be, the sensation of food getting stuck in the throat, difficulty in controlling food in the mouth, frequent coughing/choking while swallowing, sudden weight loss, frequent chest infections, change in your voice quality and pneumonia. These can be alarming signs of dysphagia for both children and adults.
A Speech and Language Therapist helps in identifying the problem and plans appropriate therapy techniques to those individuals who are affected with Dysphagia and make them eat/drink safely.