Path to Dysphagia Diagnosis
  • Carinda Stout, MS CCC/SLP

May is National Lupus Awareness Month

For some people living with lupus, swallowing difficulties are among the more challenging of these symptoms. Their swallowing problems are typically associated with systemic sclerosis, a connective tissue disorder that results in the development of thick, sclerotic skin. Systemic sclerosis is not just associated with lupus, but also with other inflammatory connective tissue disorders. These include rheumatoid arthritis, mixed connective tissue disease, dermatomyositis, and polymyositis. It is also worth pointing out that diagnosis with an autoimmune disease places one at a higher risk of developing systemic sclerosis. Sjögren’s syndrome has also been implicated in the development of some cases of dysphagia among lupus patients.


Swallowing problems (for people living with Lupus) are typically associated with systemic sclerosis, a connective tissue disorder that results in the development of thick, sclerotic skin.

Between 1.5% and 13% of individuals suffering from lupus also have dysphagia. Also, a maximum of 50% of lupus patients experience heartburn. In both groups of patients, systemic sclerosis plays an important role in contributing to their symptoms. For those whose dysphagia is linked to systemic sclerosis and lupus, swallowing problems are the result of slow, uncoordinated movement in the muscles of the esophagus. These patients have an especially hard time swallowing solid foods, and may be subject to heartburn.


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