Feeding with Swallowing Difficulties
What is Dysphagia?
Dysphagia is the umbrella medical term for someone who experiences eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties, whether in infants, children and adults, regardless of the medical reason or disease responsible1.
What causes Dysphagia?
Dysphagia can be caused by many different conditions2:
- Neurological Disorders (e.g. Learning disabilities, brain trauma)
- Progressive Neurolical Disorders (e.g. Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Motor Neurone Disease (MND), Huntington’s Disease)
- Mechanical or Obstructive Diseases (e.g. Head and Neck tumours, surgery)
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Respiratory Conditions (e.g. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
Consequences of Dysphagia
Consequences can occur when dysphagia is not correctly treated and so management is required. If adequate nutrition does not occur this can lead to:
- Weight loss and malnutrition3
- Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)4
- Increased hospital length of stay5
Managing Dysphagia via Dietary Modification
As part of the treatment of dysphagia dietary modification may occur. Dietary Modification is dependant on if the person is safe to consume any food or fluid orally and, if so, what degree of dietary modification is required6. Dietary modification could therefore occur as addition of thickener into the diet, or in more severe cases with tube feeding7.
To learn more on the dietary management of Dysphagia using Thickeners, please see this e-learning https://www.nutricia.co.uk/hcp/academy/dysphagia-and-stroke/fundamentals-of-dysphagia-using-nutilis-clear.html
To learn more about Tube Feeding, please see this e-learning https://www.nutricia.co.uk/hcp/academy/tube-feeding/enteral-feeding-and-tube-care.html
Enteral feeding and tube care
To learn more about Tube Feeding, please see this e-learning.
A guide to Dysphagia
To learn more on the dietary management of Dysphagia using Thickeners, please see this e-learning.
- Dysphagia – Guidance (2015) Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. Available at: https://www.rcslt.org/members/clinical-guidance/dysphagia/dysphagia-guidance/ (Accessed: December 15, 2022).
- Chilukuri, P., Odufalu, F., & Hachem, C. Dysphagia. 2018;115(3):206–210.
- Carrión S, Roca M, Costa A, et al. Clin Nutr. 2017;36(4):1110-6.
- Leibovitz A, Baumoehl Y, Lubart E, et al. Gerontology. 2007;53(4):179-83.
- Altman KW, Yu G-P, Schaefer SD. 2010;136(8):784-9.
- Nutrition support in adults: oral nutrition support, enteral tube feeding and parenteral nutrition CG32; Costing Report. Implementing NICE guidance in England. 2006.
- Swallowing Problems: Dysphagia (2021) NHS choices. NHS. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/swallowing-problems-dysphagia/treatment/ (Accessed: December 15, 2022).