Speech Therapy Helps Dysphagia

June 13, 2016

Speech Therapy Helps Dysphagia

 Did you know that 89% of people with Brain Injury, Stroke, MS, and Parkinson's Disease have trouble with speech and swallowing?

 Do You Have: Changes in your voice? Difficulty or pain while swallowing?  Feel like something is stuck in your throat after eating?  Do you cough or choke when you swallow? You might have dysphagia and Speech Therapy can help!

What is Dysphagia?

Dysphagia is difficulty swallowing and is usually a sign of a problem with your throat or esophagus -the muscular tube that moves food and liquids from the back of your mouth to your stomach. Although dysphagia can happen to anyone, it is most common in people who have problems of the brain or nervous system.

There are many different problems that can prevent the throat or esophagus from working properly. Some of these are minor, and others are more serious. If you have a hard time swallowing once or twice, you probably do not have a medical problem. But if you have trouble swallowing on a regular basis, you may have a more serious problem that needs treatment.

What Causes Dysphagia?

Normally, the muscles in your throat and esophagus squeeze, or contract, to move food and liquids from your mouth to your stomach without problems. Sometimes, though, food and liquids have trouble getting to your stomach. There are several types of problems that can make it hard for food and liquids to travel down your esophagus:

  • The muscles and nerves that help move food through the throat and esophagus are not working right. This can happen to people with problems with their nervous system, such as: Stroke, Brain Injury, Spinal Cord Injury, Post-Polio Syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis, or Parkinson's Disease.
  • There is swelling, inflammation, spasms and/or weakness from immune system problems such as Scleroderma, a condition in which the tissues of the esophagus become hard and narrow.
  • Something is blocking your throat or esophagus. Conditions that can cause this include: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) that when un-treated can result in ulcers in the esophagus and scarring, Esophagitis or inflammation of the esophagus, Diverticula or small sacs in the walls of the esophagus or the throat, or Esophageal tumors.
A dry mouth can make dysphagia worse. This is because you may not have enough saliva to help move food out of your mouth and through your esophagus.

What Are The Symptoms Of Dysphagia?

Dysphagia can come and go, be mild or severe, or get worse over time. If you have dysphagia, you may:

  • Have problems getting food or liquids to go down on the first try.
  • Gag, choke, or cough when you swallow.
  • Have food or liquids come back up through your throat, mouth, or nose after you swallow.
  • Feel like foods or liquids are stuck in some part of your throat or chest.
  • Have pain when you swallow.
  • Have pain or pressure in your chest or have heartburn.
  • Lose weight because you are not getting enough food or liquid.
How Is Dysphagia Treated?

Your speech therapist will work with your doctor to evaluate what is causing your dysphagia and develop an individualized treatment program for you. Treatment your doctor may provide includes:

  • Dilation: Placing a device down your esophagus to carefully expand any narrow areas of your esophagus. You may need to have the treatment more than once.
  • Endoscopy: Using a long, thin scope to remove an object that is stuck in your esophagus.
  • Surgery: If you have something blocking your esophagus (such as a tumor or diverticula), you may need surgery to remove it. Surgery is also sometimes used in people who have a problem that affects the lower esophageal muscle (achalasia).
  • Medicines: If you have dysphagia related to GERD, heartburn, or esophagitis, prescription medicines may help prevent stomach acid from entering your esophagus. Infections in your esophagus are often treated with antibiotic medicines.
Treatment your speech therapist may provide includes:
  • Exercises for your swallowing muscles to train your muscles to work together to help you swallow.
  • Compensation Strategies: You may also need to learn how to position your body or how to put food in your mouth to be able to swallow better.
  • Changing the foods you eat. Your speech therapist may tell you to eat certain foods and liquids to make swallowing easier.
In rare cases, a person who has severe dysphagia may need a feeding tube because he or she is not able to get enough food and liquids.

Speech Therapy at Therapy Achievements:

Speech therapy services are typically covered by health insurance and Therapy Achievements is an in-network provider for most insurances.

Therapy Achievements is a Rehabilitation Center that provides Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapy for Balance and Movement, Speech and Swallowing, Swelling from Lymphedema and Edema, Driving Rehabilitation and Functional Living Skills for visual and cognitive re-training. We help people with Brain Injury, Stroke, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's Disease, Lymphedema, Head and Neck Cancer, Vertigo and Dizziness, and other disorders that interfere with mobility and function.  We offer VitalStim Technology, Saebo Technology, LSVT LOUD Treatment, LSVT BIG Treatment, and Neuro-Developmental Treatment.