Difficulty swallowing, called dysphagia, can involve any or all stages of swallowing. From keeping food inside the mouth, to chewing adequately, to coughing or choking whilst eating or drinking. If food is not swallowed successfully into the stomach, it can enter the airways (this is called aspiration), which can in turn cause pneumonia. Difficulties swallowing can occur after a stroke, traumatic brain injury, as part of a progressive neurological disease, with head and neck cancers and/or can be a part of aging. Research tells us that up to 60% of people who have had a stroke develop dysphagia.
When to seek help:
- If you having difficulty chewing foods (not due to dentures) and holding them in your mouth
- If you take more than 30 minutes to finish meals
- If you find yourself regularly coughing during or after meals
- If you are having regular chest infections that your GP suspects may be aspiration pneumonia
- If you feel food continually ‘gets stuck’ when you try to swallow it