You might not recognise the word ‘dysphagia’ – which is the medical term for ‘swallowing difficulties’, whether that’s certain foods, liquids or medication. But it’s actually pretty common – one in nine older people have symptoms! Here’s what you need to know…
Signs of dysphagia can include trouble swallowing, coughing or choking when swallowing, bringing food back up, feeling like something’s stuck in your throat or chest, and drooling. Over time, it can also lead to weight loss and repeated chest infections.
Stats suggest it’s more common in older people (in fact, up to 50-75% of care-home residents are thought to have difficulty swallowing). Dysphagia can be driven by different causes, such as stroke, dementia or conditions that impact the oesophagus. It can also affect children, perhaps due to a developmental condition or other health issue.
Because of issues with swallowing, many people end up crushing tablets, opening capsules or avoiding taking their meds altogether. However, it’s important to take medicine as prescribed to help ensure effectiveness. There may be an alternative format available – such as liquid – if you, your child, or someone you care for is struggling with an issue swallowing. Speak to your GP or Boots pharmacist for advice.
Knowledge is power, so read up about dysphagia (try nhs.uk). There are a variety of treatments, including therapy, dietary changes and medication, so speak to your GP first – help is out there.