Swallowing disorders can occur at different stages in the swallowing process. They can occur at the oral stage (sucking, chewing, and moving food or liquid into the throat), the pharyngeal phase (starting the swallowing reflex, squeezing food down the throat, and closing off the airway to prevent food or liquid from entering the airway (aspiration) or to prevent choking), or the esophageal phase (relaxing and tightening the openings at the top and bottom of the feeding tube in the throat (esophagus) and squeezing food through the esophagus into the stomach).
Common Swallowing Disorders
- Weakness of the lips, tongue, or jaw
- Weakness of the throat
- Reduced motility of the esophagus
- Esophageal stricture
- Zenker’s Diverticulum
- Cricopharyngeal Muscle Spasm
- Fibrosis following radiation treatment for head and neck cancer
COMMON SYMPTOMS OF SWALLOWING DISORDERS
- Difficulty swallowing food or liquid
- Coughing during or after eating or drinking
- Pain while swallowing
- Food feeling stuck in the throat
- Difficulty chewing
- Choking while eating
- Regurgitation of food into the throat or mouth
As a result of swallowing disorders, adults may develop additional medical complications such as poor nutrition or dehydration and risk of aspiration (food or liquid entering the airway), which can lead to pneumonia and chronic lung disease. Patients may also report that they no longer enjoy meal times, and they may embarrased to join others during meals leading to social isolation.
Information courtesy of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.