Carinda Stout, MS CCC/SLP
Difficulty Swallowing IS Dysphagia.
The ability to swallow is something we never think about until something changes and it becomes difficult to swallow.
The medical term for this condition is dysphagia. Some common symptoms are coughing during and after eating or drinking, throat clearing, a wet sounding voice, a sensation that food is sticking in the throat, food or liquid is leaking from the mouth or remaining in the mouth after swallowing, and excess time and effort is needed to chew or swallow.
Being able to swallow is something everyone assumes will naturally occur and we swallow without ever thinking about how the process of swallowing occurs.
Three Stages to the Swallow
There are three stages involved in the swallowing process.
The oral stage is when the food we consume is chewed and the tongue squeezes it into the back of the throat (or pharynx).
The second stage, known as the pharyngeal stage, begins as the bolus of food enters the back of the throat and an involuntary response stimulates the closure of the larynx by the epiglottis and the vocal folds. This prevents the food from going “down the wrong pipe” into the trachea and the lungs.
As food leaves the pharynx, it enters the esophageal stage. The esophagus is a tube-like muscular structure which leads food into the stomach due to its rhythmic contractions. Dysphagia can occur at any of the three stages of the swallowing process.