When is Swallowing Therapy Needed?
Swallowing difficulties, known as dysphagia, can significantly impact your quality of life. It can happen for a number of reasons. If you experience any of the following symptoms, it’s important to seek specialized care from a Century ENT specialist.
Symptoms of Swallowing Difficulties
- Coughing/choking while eating
- Difficulty clearing food through your mouth and throat
- The sensation that food, drink, or medicine sticks in your throat
- Wet or gurgly vocal quality while eating
- Food and/or drink leaking from your nose
- Difficulty holding lips together to contain your food/drink
- Excessive drooling
- Pain with swallowing
- Difficulty coordinating breathing and swallowing
If you have these symptoms, you may be referred by your ENT or doctor to a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP). SLPs are specially trained to diagnose and treat swallowing impairments.
Three Phases of Swallowing
- Oral Phase: how you move food through your mouth
- Pharyngeal Phase: how safely and efficiently food and drink move through your throat and if either goes into your airway (known as aspiration) while you are swallowing
- Esophageal Phase: how food moves passes through your upper esophagus and down towards your stomach
Evaluation & Therapy
Your SLP will evaluate you via a Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES) or a Videofluoroscopic Swallow Study (VFSS). The FEES is a portable procedure completed in the office by passing a scope transnasally and visualizing the swallow. The VFSS is a radiographic procedure completed at a hospital for further evaluation of the swallowing system.
Swallow therapy can be completed in conjunction with medical treatment if needed, and consists of exercises targeting different muscles of the mouth and throat, postural strategies, compensatory swallow strategies, and/or modifying food/drink consistencies to help improve swallow function and improve your symptoms.
The goals of swallow therapy are to:
- Support adequate nutrition/hydration and/or return to an oral diet
- Improve quality of life and reduce caregiver burden using supportive measures (postural, compensatory or consistency modification).
- Develop a treatment plan that will improve the safety and efficiency of the swallow