Eating and Swallowing DifficultiesSwallowing difficulties (dysphagia) occurs when a person has difficulties eating or drinking safely or may need more effort to move food or liquid from your mouth to your stomach safely.  In some cases, the person may not be able to swallow at all. 
Eating and drinking by mouth may compromise the airway or lungs, and lead to chest infections and other complications. Tube feeding may be required as a result.

Dysphagia may result for a number of conditions. Swallowing difficulties can occur at any age, but it’s more common in older adults. The causes of swallowing problems vary, and treatment depends on the cause.

Commonly,  swallowing difficulties are associated with:

  • stroke
  • brain injury
  • neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease
  • ageing process
  • trauma to the head and neck
  • cancer of the head and neck, or the digestive tract.

Signs and Symptoms that can be associated with Dysphagia may include:

  • Not being able to swallow
  • Wet or gurgle voice during or after eating or drinking
  • Difficulties swallowing particular types of food or drinks
  • Food or stomach acid backing up into your throat
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Coughing or gagging when swallowing

Persistent dysphagia may indicate a serious medical condition requiring treatment. Having frequent episodes of difficulty swallowing may result in lung infections (pneumonia), dehydration, or weight loss.

Assessment and treatment for Swallowing Difficulties

Due to the serious nature of the disorder, a team of professionals may be involved in the management of dysphagia.  The speech therapist is a key member of the team.  Swallowing evaluations are conducted by the speech therapists.  It involves the assessment of the nerves and muscles associated with swallowing.  The evaluation will also include eating and drinking food and fluids of different consistencies.  Further diagnostic assessments will be recommended based on the initial findings.

Diagnostic tests for patients with swallowing difficulties

The diagnostic tests that are currently available in Singapore are Videofluoroscopy (VFS) and Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES).  These tests provide accurate and detailed information about the swallowing mechanics.  In particular, the tests pinpoints the areas in which swallowing mechanism (physiology) has been impaired, and also how the impairment(s) affect swallowing safety.

Following the assessment, intervention and management strategies will be introduced.  Armed with the information from the detailed diagnostic tests, rehabilitation and therapy can be planned.
In the management of swallowing difficulties, other members of the dysphagia team may be involved.  This includes the dietitian, the doctor, the patient and his family.

How We Can Help

At Speech Matters, we are equipped the skills and expertise in the area of dysphagia management.  We work closely with a team of doctors and Dietitians to facilitate the management of patients with dysphagia.  Our speech-language therapists are trained and qualified professionals who are accredited to perform swallowing assessments including Videofluoroscopy and Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES).  We are the only speech therapists in Singapore who provide home based diagnostic FEES assessments.  This allows us to treat patients with swallowing difficulties in the comfort of their own homes.