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Dysphagia is the medical term for the symptom of difficulty in swallowing.

The word dysphagia is derived from two words. The Greek word dys meaning bad or disordered, and phago which means "eat". Dysphagia is most likely to occur in the elderly. However, people of all ages can have health conditions that lead to dysphagia.

Adults may experience dysphagia if they have any of the following:
A stroke,
Brain injury,
Surgery on their brain, neck or heart,
Cancer of the neck or brain,
Suffered any muscular disease
Muscular dystrophy,

Any of these types of conditions can cause difficulties or pain in swallowing liquids, foods or even saliva.

Signs and symptoms of dysphagia include:
Coughing during or immediately after eating or drinking,
Difficulty chewing or controlling food in the mouth,
Inability to control liquid or saliva in the mouth,
Difficulty initiating a swallow,
Extra effort or time to trigger a swallow,
Frequent pneumonia,
Unexplained weight loss,
Gurgly or wet voice after swallowing,
Nasal regurgitation,
A person complaining of swallowing difficulty.

If a person’s dysphagia isn’t managed properly, dehydration and poor nutrition/malnutrition often result.

A person with dysphagia is also at risk of aspiration, where food or liquid enters the airway which can lead to pneumonia or other chronic illnesses., and can be life threatening if not treated properly. Embarrassment and social isolation are also a significant consideration for people with dysphagia. They are more likely to avoid social interaction, where food and drink are concerned.

Anyone with swallowing difficulties needs to see a qualified speech-language pathologist who will conduct a thorough swallow assessment, and assist them to understand their needs, provide swallowing advice and modify diets or fluids where necessary. For more information on Speech Pathology visit here: http://www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au

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