Dysphagia (Swallowing Difficulties)

Dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, is common in older adults but can happen at any age. The causes of swallowing problems vary and treatment depends on the cause. Therapists will determine the best treatment plan to help you increase your efficiency of swallowing and enhance your safety.

  • Signs and symptoms that can be associated with dysphagia may include:
  • Pain while swallowing (odynophagia)
  • Not being able to swallow
  • Sensation of food getting stuck in your throat, chest or behind your breastbone (sternum)
  • Drooling
  • Hoarseness
  • Regurgitation
  • Frequent heartburn
  • Food or stomach acid backing up into your throat
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Coughing or gagging when swallowing

Patients with any of the following may have issues with swallowing or feeding:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Spina bifida
  • Brain injury
  • Cardiac problems
  • Reflux
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Apraxia
  • Oral weakness
  • Neurological conditions
  • Tube feedings
  • Cancer
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Dementia/Alzheimer’s disease

Therapists will use a variety of methods to determine the most appropriate therapy for you. A thorough evaluation will be performed and your personal plan for therapy will be determined.

Your therapy may include the following:

  • Compensatory techniques
  • Optimal positioning to increase safety
  • Oral motor strengthening and coordination
  • Laryngeal pharyngeal strengthening and coordination exercises
  • Diet modification to increase safety