Dysphagia is the feeling of something interfering with swallowing, be it an actual blockage of the throat or a problem with the act of swallowing. While typically more common in babies and seniors, dysphagia has multiple causes and can affect people of all ages. Dysphagia can cause additional health problems, and should therefore be diagnosed and treated appropriately.
Many rhythmic or repetitive behaviors are taken for granted until they become problematic, e.g., breathing, chewing and swallowing. However, when there is a problem in one of these functions, it can have a serious impact on people’s quality of life. Dysphagia, defined as difficulty swallowing or the feeling of an obstruction while swallowing, is one such problem. Dysphagia may be caused by disease or damage to the nervous system, spasms of the muscles in the esophagus or other conditions that physically block the esophagus or cause it to narrow.1* Impaired saliva production, or dry mouth, can also make dysphagia worse.
While dysphagia makes eating and drinking uncomfortable, it can also cause serious health problems. Because many people with this condition do not seek or receive a proper diagnosis or medical treatment, eating and drinking less can lead to malnutrition and dehydration, weight loss, respiratory infections and even social problems such as avoiding eating with others. Dysphagia is a common condition, affecting around 14 percent of the population over 50 years of age.2 As patients with dysphagia may have trouble getting sufficient nutrition, adapting their eating and drinking is an important step to managing their condition. At Nestlé Health Science, we are actively developing innovative nutritional therapies for conditions like dysphagia with the goal of improving patients’ quality of life.
1. http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/tc/difficulty-swallowing-dysphagia-overview. Accessed December 2014.
2. Kawashima K, Motohashi Y, Fjushima I. Prevalence of dysphagia among community-dwelling elderly individuals as estimated using a questionnaire for dysphagia screening. Dysphagia. 2004; 19(4):266-71.
*Listed symptoms are not all-inclusive, actual patient symptoms may vary.