top of page

Swallowing and Dysphagia

Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia) in Adults

What are swallowing disorders?

Swallowing disorders, or dysphagia, can occur at different phases of the swallowing process:

  • Oral phase-sucking, chewing, and moving food/liquid to the back of the mouth

  • Pharyngeal phase-the swallowing reflex, squeezing of food down the throat, and closing off the airway to prevent food/liquid from entering the airway (aspiration) and to prevent choking

  • Esophageal phase-relaxing and tightening the openings in the esophagus, and food passing through the esophagus into the stomach

Dysphagia can occur at any phase of the swallow. The swallowing phases are connected, and a problem during one of these phases will result in problems in the other phases to some degree. At SVS-Rehab we use a holistic approach to treat dysphagia and focus on all phases of the swallow.​

What are the signs and symptoms of swallowing disorders?

Several diseases, conditions, or surgeries can cause swallowing problems. Signs that someone may have a swallowing disorder include coughing during or right after eating or drinking, wet or gurgly sounding voice during or after eating or drinking, extra effort or time to chew or swallow food, liquid leaking from the mouth or getting stuck in the mouth, recurring pneumonia or chest congestion after eating, weight loss, and dehydration (not enough fluids). 
People with dysphagia may have poor nutrition or dehydration; risk of aspiration (food or liquid entering the airway), which can lead to pneumonia and chronic lung disease; less enjoyment of eating or drinking; embarrassment; and isolation in social situations involving eating.

How are swallowing disorders identified?

A speech-language pathologist (SLP) with expertise in swallowing disorders can evaluate individuals experiencing problems eating and drinking. The SLP will do the following:

  1. Take a careful history of medical conditions and symptoms

  2. Examine the strength and movement of the muscles involved in swallowing

  3. Observe swallowing for posture, behaviour, and oral movements during eating and drinking

  4. Possibly perform special tests to evaluate swallowing, such as:

    1. Modified barium swallow— individual eats food or drinks liquid with barium in it and then the swallowing process is viewed on an X-ray

    2. Endoscopic assessment— a lighted scope is inserted through the nose and into the throat, and swallowing can be viewed on a screen.

What can be done to help people with swallowing disorders?

Therapy to help someone with dysphagia depends on the cause, symptoms, and type of dysphagia. 
A speech-language pathologist may recommend any of the following:

  1. Specific swallowing treatment (e.g., exercises to improve muscle movement)

  2. Positions or strategies to help the person swallow more effectively

  3. Specific food and liquid textures that are easier and safer to swallow

  4. Vital Stimulation Therapy

Our speech-language pathologist Mohamed A. Mohamed is experienced in this kind of treatment. He has been a Certified Vital Stimulation therapist since 2005 and has used this therapy with a variety of patients with swallowing difficulties, in the U.S. and Canada​

Schedule online. It's easy, fast and secure.

bottom of page