Dysphagia is a condition characterised by difficulty in swallowing. It is often under-recognised in the health and care sector. Although it can affect people of all ages, it is particularly common among the elderly and those with medical conditions like stroke or neurological diseases including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
How to Recognise Dysphagia
Training is key to recognising the signs of dysphagia, which can include coughing or choking during meals, unexplained weight loss and repeated chest infections. As a health or care professional, it is crucial to understand the complexities of dysphagia and how to manage it, as this can have significant implications for the health and wellbeing of those in care. Training providers such as https://www.tidaltraining.co.uk/clinical-training-courses/ offer clinical training courses covering all practical aspects.
Causes and impact of Dysphagia
There are various causes of swallowing problems but it is usually a result of another health condition. The most common causes are medicines, neurological conditions, various cancers and breathing conditions like COPD.
Dysphagia can lead to a range of problems, including malnutrition, dehydration and aspiration pneumonia. Early detection is vital to ensure that supportive management can be put in place. In older people, dysphagia can have a severe impact on quality of life, particularly towards the end of life. The British Geriatric Society has useful advice about this.
Management of Dysphagia
Treating dysphagia depends on the cause and how severe the problems are. Some people find a short episode may get better by itself, while others need intervention. There is a range of management strategies for dysphagia, including modifications to food and drink with thickeners and softer foods. Speech and language therapists can provide swallowing therapy and there are adaptive devices like modified cutlery that people can be trained to use. For those with more severe problems, feeding tubes and surgery may be considered.