What is Dysphagia ?

What is Dysphagia?

Dysphagia is the medical term for a variety of swallowing disorders

Dysphagia is the medical term for ‘difficulty in swallowing’. People with dysphagia may have problems consuming certain foods or liquids, others can't swallow at all. People may experience problems with sucking, swallowing, drinking, chewing, eating, dribbling saliva, closing lips, or often experience food or drink going down the wrong way.

Dysphagia reduces the quality of life and can lead to serious conditions

Dysphagia can profoundly affect the quality of life: People with dysphagia may not only have difficulty swallowing but may also experience pain while swallowing. When that happens, eating is no longer a pleasure, but becomes a challenge. Difficulty swallowing can limit what people can eat and drink, leading to frustration, stress and depression. Sometimes, dysphagia can make it difficult to take in enough calories and fluids to nourish the body. This can lead to serious medical problems such as dehydration, malnutrition, pneumonia and death.

Dysphagia puts a strain on the health sector

Dysphagia is associated with high cost for medical facilities. Swallowing difficulties are associated with increased hospital admissions, antibiotic cover, feeding tube insertions and prolonged inpatient stays. 

Is Dysphagia Common?

Dysphagia may be more common than diabetes

It is estimated that around 20% of the general population suffer from dysphagia at some stage of their lives, and to affect up to 50% to 66% of people over 60 years of age. Each year, according to the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR), over 60,000 Americans die from complications associated with swallowing dysfunctions. Based on CDC mortality data, this is more than the total number of people dying from all forms of Liver Disease, Kidney Disease, and HIV-AIDS, combined – and nearly as many as died from Diabetes. 

Dysphagia can affect everyone

People of all age groups and all walks of life are affected by dysphagia. It can arise from a wide variety of causes, including accidents, injuries, cancers and their treatment, degenerative and respiratory conditions, but can equally occur in infants due to abnormalities at birth.

Dysphagia is a ‘hidden disease’

Despite being very common, swallowing disorders often go unnoticed. A lack of general awareness about swallowing disorders leads to individuals not discussing their – often treatable – symptoms with a physician or clinician. Others may not have access to qualified treatment or care.