Swallowing disorders in Adults
Consider the intricate process of eating. First, you must bring food or drink to your mouth, employing tools like forks, spoons, straws, or even your hands. Then, your mouth opens to welcome the food, and you close your lips to contain it. The next step involves chewing the food or maneuvering the liquid, preparing it for the final act—swallowing.
We all encounter occasional swallowing difficulties. It might be struggling to chew a tough piece of meat, having food trigger a gag reflex, or requiring extra effort to swallow. We’ve all experienced that moment when a sip of liquid ‘goes down the wrong way,’ leading to coughing and choking. However, individuals with a swallowing disorder, also known as dysphagia (dis-FAY-juh), face these challenges on a frequent basis.
The act of swallowing unfolds in three distinct stages or phases, each susceptible to potential problems:
- Oral Phase (Mouth): This phase encompasses activities like sucking, chewing, and propelling food or liquid into the throat.
- Pharyngeal Phase (Throat): Here, the swallow initiates, with food being propelled down the throat. An essential aspect is closing off the airway to prevent food or liquid from entering it, which could lead to coughing and choking.
- Esophageal Phase: This phase involves the opening and closing of the esophagus, the tube that connects the back of your throat to your stomach. The esophagus contracts to push food down to the stomach. In cases of esophageal issues or conditions like acid reflux (commonly known as indigestion or heartburn), food may become stuck in the esophagus, and frequent vomiting can occur.
If you or someone you know experiences challenges related to adult swallowing disorders, seeking professional guidance and evaluation can help identify the underlying issues and potential treatment options.