Where does one turn if your loved one is dealing with a swallowing dysfunction?
First, understand that there are different types of swallowing dysfunctions, also called Dysphagia. This comes from the fact that there are different phases of the swallowing process. One is the oral phase which is the part of the process that occurs in the mouth, called the Buccal phase. Another phase is in the throat called the pharyngeal phase. And then the esophagus, called the esophageal phase. A person can have difficulty in any part of the swallowing process. Each phase has sub parts, as well.
The swallowing process is very important for the obvious reason of being able to maintain health through proper nutrition. However, communication and social interactions can also be adversely effected with a swallowing dysfunction.
The causes for the dysfunction in swallowing can be from disease, such as multiple sclerosis; an event such as a stroke or brain trauma; or possibly a birth defect. The problem can stem from a neurological or muscular source.
A Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) can most effectively and efficiently evaluate and treat individuals with swallowing disorders. A Speech Therapist can determine the cause for the problem and the phase of the swallowing process that is being adversely effected. The Speech Therapist will then provide a program of appropriate muscle exercises to most effectively address the personal issue of the patient. Beyond exercises, the Speech Therapist may recommend special devices, a modified diet and different positions suggested for eating.