Swallowing is vital in the process of eating and drinking. Even if it may not seem that important in everyday life, the process is extremely complex. An intricate system of muscles are part of the process and phases of swallowing foods and liquids: oral, pharyngeal and oesophageal. If these muscles and processes fail it can cause food and in some cases liquid to become stuck in the throat, causing choking. This can be an extremely frightening experience. Difficulty swallowing is known as dysphagia, and there is a wide range of conditions which can lead to it.
Severe Head Injuries
Severe injuries to the head can cause many issues, including trouble with swallowing. These injuries can also cause confusion, lack of awareness, irritability, and problems with balance. This can occur when the brain fails to send signals to the parotid, submandibular, and sublingual salivary glands, causing the mouth to become dry and slightly irritated. With no saliva, food cannot be properly broken down and cannot be swallowed, leading to food becoming lodged and choking occurring. Without medical attention, symptoms and conditions can become worse and new ones can arise. Struggling to swallow can be difficult and extremely unsettling, but you can use easy mix Simply Thick to thicken up liquids and make them easier to swallow.
A stroke occurs when the blood supply is blocked. In some cases, the blood vessel may burst, causing lifetime brain injuries and several other disabilities. The experience can be extremely traumatic. Symptoms of a stroke include sudden confusion, numbness or extreme pain in the head, arm, leg, or chest area, sudden stunted vision, and difficulty forming speech. These problems can be short-term or a lifetime issue.
Dementia is the stunted ability to remember things or make decisions, which can interfere with everyday activities. Even though it affects older aged individuals, it is not a normal side effect of ageing. A person with dementia may struggle to chew or forget they have fluid or food in their mouth to swallow. Dementia can also affect a person’s ability to swallow safely. People with dementia may leave larger and more solid foods on their plates, as they may find it difficult to swallow or chew them.
Symptoms of dementia include but are not limited to memory loss, poor judgment, outbursts of anger or upset, wandering, and trouble with remembering basic memories.
Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD)
GORD or acid reflux can cause discomfort but is a very normal condition known as heartburn. It occurs when acid from your stomach travels up through the oesophagus. This process can cause a burning sensation in the chest area.
When the acid travels upwards, it may cause severe irritation. This can cause a range of issues, including dysphagia. Symptoms of GORD are bad breath, irritations in the throat and mouth area, bloating, and nausea. Long-term irritation to the oesophagus can lead to a condition known as Barrett’s oesophagus, which can lead to oesophageal cancer in very severe cases.
Swallowing issues are not always a serious cause for concern, but if similar symptoms arise and further discomfort occurs, reaching out to a local medical service is strongly advised.