Dysphagia: overview

Dysphagia describes eating and drinking disorders in children and adults which may occur in the oral, pharyngeal and oesophageal stages of deglutition.

Contained in this definition are problems positioning food in the mouth and in oral movements, including sucking, mastication and the process of swallowing. The ‘normal’ swallow needs the respiratory, oral, pharyngeal, laryngeal and oesophageal anatomical structures to function in synchrony, which is dependent upon the motor and sensory nervous system being intact. 

Key points:

  • The speech and language therapist has a key role in assisting patients to make informed decisions when balancing the risks and benefits of treatment options.

  • Speech and language therapists have a key role in educating/training others in identifying, assessing and managing dysphagia.

  • Persons with long-term conditions, who have transient, intermittent, persistent or progressive dysphagia often remain at risk of the complications associated with dysphagia and require the SLT to monitor and review progress over time.

For more information read our Dysphagia factsheet

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