What is dysphagia?
Dysphagia is a swallowing disorder that may occur as a result of various medical conditions. Dysphagia is defined as problems involving the oral cavity, pharynx, esophagus, or gastrointestinal junction.
Dysphagia may result from numerous etiologies secondary to damage to the central nervous system (CNS) and/or cranial nerves, and unilateral cortical and subcortical lesions, due to
- traumatic brain injury;
- spinal cord injury;
- Parkinson’s disease;
- multiple sclerosis;
- ALS (or Lou Gehrig’s disease);
- muscular dystrophy;
- developmental disabilities in an adult population (i.e., cerebral palsy);
- post-polio syndrome; and/or
- myasthenia gravis.
Dysphagia may also occur from problems affecting the head and neck, including
- cancer in the oral cavity, pharynx, nasopharynx, or esophagus;
- chemoradiation for head and neck cancer treatment;
- trauma or surgery involving the head and neck;
- decayed or missing teeth;
- critical care that may have included oral intubation and/or tracheostomy;
- certain medications;
- in patients with certain metabolic disturbances;
- in patients with infectious diseases (e.g., sepsis, acquired immune deficiency syndrome [AIDS]);
- in patients with a variety of pulmonary diseases (e.g., cardiac obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD]);
- in patients with GERD;
- in patients following cardiothoracic surgery; and/or
- in decompensated elderly patients.
How is dysphagia treated?
The primary goals of dysphagia intervention are to
- safely support adequate nutrition and hydration and return to safe and efficient oral intake (including incorporating the patient’s dietary preferences and consulting with family members/caregivers to ensure that the patient’s daily living activities are being considered);
- determine the optimum feeding methods/technique to maximize swallowing safety and feeding efficiency;
- minimize the risk of pulmonary complications;
- reduce patient and caregiver burden while maximizing the patient’s quality of life; and
- develop treatment plans to improve safety and efficiency of the swallow.
Management of your dysphagia should be based on results of the comprehensive assessment. Decision making must take into account many factors about the individual’s overall status and prognosis. This might include information concerning the individual’s health and diagnosis, cognition, social situation, cultural values, economic status, motivation, and personal choice. Of primary concern is how the individual’s health status can be maintained or maximized. Our Dickinson, Killdeer, and Richardton, ND speech therapists will consider and integrate your wishes and advocate on your behalf to the health care team, the family, and other relevant individuals.
If you have been diagnosed with Dysphagia, request an appointment at Therapy Solutions, and get the help you need from our speech therapist today.