When something goes wrong with the muscles that direct swallowing, it’s dysphagia. Problems with any of the phases of swallowing can cause dysphagia. Dysphagia can lead to food or other material entering the airways or lungs–aspiration. Normally, a flap called the epiglottis blocks food particles and stomach contents from entering your lungs. Dysphagia can disrupt this process. Aspiration is serious because it can lead to pneumonia and other problems.
Dysphagia by the numbers
- 600 – Average number of times a person swallows per day
- 300,000-600,000 – Number of people affected by swallowing disorders every year in the United States
- 10 million – Number of people evaluated each year for swallowing difficulties
According to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association, difficulty swallowing can affect:
- Nutrition, including poor nutrition, dehydration, loss of appetite and weight loss
- Health, including pneumonia
- Social engagement, including less enjoyment of eating and drinking, and embarrassment or isolation in social situations
- Learn more at asha.org.
Speech-language pathologists can help to diagnose and treat swallowing disorders. Contact Rehabilitation Services at 425.251.5165 for more information.