Eating drinking and swallowing difficulties

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What to expect

Eating drinking and swallowing difficulties

Dysphagia is the term used for problems associated with eating, drinking or swallowing difficulties. Swallowing is a very complex mechanism and can take up to 50 muscles to initiate it. Speech and language therapy will help to support individuals with eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties by providing advice, support and training to help them to eat and drink more effectively and as safely as possible.

What are eating drinking and swallowing difficulties?

Eating drinking and swallowing difficulties are when problems occur with eating, drinking, or swallowing. This could be when someone has trouble swallowing certain liquids or a certain consistency of food. Some people may not be able to produce a swallowing reflex, this can often happen after a Stroke.

People, who suffer from Dysphagia, may aspirate food into the lungs, which can lead to reoccurring chest infections. Coughing during a swallow is common as well as losing a lot of weight. The severity of difficulty will depend on the individual.

Stages of the normal swallow

Swallowing difficulties can occur during any of the three stages of swallowing:

Oral Phase

The oral phase involves chewing food, whilst moving it to the back of the throat.

Pharyngeal Phase

The pharyngeal stage involves the food being swallowed and squeezed down the throat, at the same time; the airway is closed off to stop food being aspirated or leading to choking.

Oesophageal Phase

The oesophageal phase involves squeezing food or liquid through the oesophagus and into the stomach by the muscles at the top and bottom of the feeding tube relaxing and contracting.

What causes eating drinking and swallowing difficulties?

Eating drinking or swallowing difficulties may be caused by the following conditions:

What problems caused by eating drinking and swallowing difficulties can speech and language therapy help with?

Speech and language therapy can help with eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties.

A Speech and language therapist's aim will be to help reduce the impact eating, drinking and swallowing problems have on someone's life. If necessary nutrition and hydration may be the main focus as this can be compromised with swallowing difficulties.

A speech and language therapist will also be able to give advice to family and carers about certain aspects of feeding if needed. This may include mixing the correct consistency for drinks, when adding thickening agents.

Benefits of speech and language therapy are:

How does speech and language therapy help eating drinking and swallowing difficulties?

Speech therapists have specialist knowledge and skills in assessing and interpreting eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties. These skills allow the therapist to evaluate the individual's swallow and create an appropriate treatment plan.

Safety of individuals is of upmost importance, and for this reason, people may require certain consistencies of food and follow a recommended plan and certain head and neck position when eating or drinking.

What would speech and language therapy treatment for eating drinking and swallowing difficulties involve?

Speech and language therapy for swallowing difficulties may include some or all of the following:

Specific treatment will involve eating, drinking and swallowing management.

How do I arrange a speech and language therapy assessment?

To arrange a speech and language therapy assessment with one of our speech and language therapists please email office@slt.co.uk or call 0330 0885 643.

Summary

Swallowing is a complex mechanism and can sometimes be compromised by certain illnesses or disorders / conditions. Speech and language therapy will help an individual to cope with the affects of these difficulties and create an individualised treatment plan to improve swallowing and therefore, eating and drinking. To arrange a speech and language therapy appointment please email office@slt.co.uk or call 0330 0885 643.


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To speak to a Speech and Language Therapist or to book an appointment, call us on 0161 883 0111 or email office@slt.co.uk

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