Dysphagia is a condition that refers to those that struggle with difficulty swallowing. It is not to be confused with dysphasia, which is difficulty with speech. That said, those suffering from either condition can benefit from working with a speech therapist.
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If you or a loved one is suffering from dysphagia, here are a few facts and statistics that you should know.
Dysphagia can be caused by a number of things
Dysphagia is often caused by other conditions or injuries. Below is a list of different causes of dysphagia, which may help you understand a little more about why you have developed the condition:
- Suffering from a stroke
- Cancer in the mouth or throat
- Neurological diseases like dementia, MS, and Parkinson’s disease
- Brain cancer
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Respiratory conditions
- People who have gone through cervical spinal surgery
- Developmental disorders in childhood and into adulthood
68% of seniors with dementia have dysphagia
According to research by Apetito in the UK, 75% of nursing home residents also suffer from dysphagia.
While the condition is most common in those that suffer from a stroke or dementia, there is a multitude of conditions that can also cause dysphagia to develop.
Dysphagia can develop at any age
There’s a big misconception that dysphagia can only occur in older people.
This simply isn’t true.
As developmental disorders like cerebral palsy can affect children and other people at any age, this means dysphagia can also affect people at any age.
Strokes are also becoming more common in younger people (below the age of 55). As such, the number of younger people suffering from dysphagia is increasing.
It has knock-on effects
While dysphagia itself is a common secondary symptom to other conditions, it can also have its own knock-on effects. As those with the condition can struggle with swallowing fluids, this can easily lead to dehydration.
It can also lead to people not getting all the minerals and vitamins they need, and as a result, becoming malnourished.
But it’s more than just additional health issues. Those with dysphagia can gain heightened anxiety about mealtimes and generally enjoy eating much less. They may also feel embarrassed to eat in public or with friends and family.
Thickener sachets and gels from Simply Holahan can help those struggling with dysphagia to regain their confidence for socializing and meal times. Sachets are discrete enough to take in your bag for meals out of the house, and the flavorless thickener means you can enjoy all the flavors of your food.
You’re not alone, and there are people who can help
As mentioned above, those struggling with dysphagia can suffer from embarrassment or shame. It may feel like you’re the only person having to compromise at mealtimes. The important thing to remember is that even if your friends and family don’t struggle in the same way, you’re not alone.
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There are plenty of community groups and forums online to help you connect with others with the condition.
There are also speech and language therapists who can help. These professionals will be able to provide exercises and advice to help overcome the difficulty with swallowing. They may even be able to identify why the problem has developed if it isn’t immediately clear.