10 facts about dysphagia
Here at Wiltshire Farm Foods, we’re dedicated to raising awareness of dysphagia (swallowing difficulties) and to help those affected by it. So, if you or a loved one is currently experiencing some form of swallowing difficulty, then we have some helpful facts that you may not have been aware of regarding the condition.
1. ‘Dysphagia’ should not be confused with ‘Dysphasia’.
Dysphagia can be defined as difficulty swallowing and comes from the Greek words ‘dys’ meaning difficulty and ‘phagia’ meaning to eat. Whereas Dysphasia is a condition in which there is difficulty producing language and comes from the Greek words ‘dys’ meaning difficulty and ‘phasis’ meaning speech.
2. 1 in 17 people will develop some form of dysphagia across their lifespan.
This estimate comes from the World Gastroenterology Organisation. They based this off of a British study in which the prevalence of dysphagia in the general population was found to be 11% .
3. Dysphagia is classed as a symptom and is usually secondary to other conditions.
Difficulty swallowing often arises from conditions that affect the muscles and nerves of the throat. A classic example of this is Stroke or Cancer. Conditions that are degenerative to the nervous system can also cause dysphagia, these include Dementia, Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis. You can read more about the conditions that cause dysphagia here.
4. Dysphagia presents many signs and symptoms.
The symptoms vary from person to person, but some typical signs and symptoms to look for relating to dysphagia include:
- Coughing when eating or drinking.
- Persistent saliva production and dribbling.
- Difficulty chewing.
- A sensation that food is stuck in your throat.
5. Dysphagia can be diagnosed using a Barium Swallow Test.
The Barium Swallow Test uses X-ray’s to capture images or videos of a liquid’s journey from the mouth to the stomach. It is most frequently used to diagnose dysphagia and can identify where in the swallowing process the problem occurs. If you have been referred for a Barium Swallow Test by a GP or Speech and Language Therapist then we have a guide on what to expect on the day.
6. There are two main types of dysphagia.
- Oropharyngeal dysphagia, also called high dysphagia, which is usually caused by problems in the mouth or the throat.
- Oesophageal dysphagia, also known as low dysphagia, which is generally as a result of problems in the oesophagus - the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach.
7. Dysphagia requires a 'texture modified' diet.
Dysphagia causes several risks, most notably, choking and aspirating on food or fluids. Aspiration occurs when food travels down the windpipe and into the lungs instead of through the oesophagus and into the stomach. Persistent aspiration carries a serious risk of infection, namely aspiration pneumonia. To prevent choking and aspiration, those with dysphagia will need to modify the consistency of their diet to ensure that food is safe to swallow.
A Speech and Language Therapist will make dietary consistency recommendations and may be one of the following:
- A Level 4 diet (Pureed)
- A Level 5 diet (Minced)
- A Level 6 diet (Soft & Bite Sized)
8. There are simple tests you can do at home to check that your meals are safe to eat.
There are a range of tests that are recommended by the NHS that you can use at home to assess whether your meal is compliant with the Level 4, Level 5 or Level 6 guidelines to match your dysphagia diagnosis. These tests simply require a fork or a spoon. Wiltshire Farm Foods have some useful instructional videos on how to conduct these tests at home here.
9. Those with dysphagia should take extra care when it comes to 'high risk foods'.
Certain foods can provide an extra risk to those with dysphagia as they have components that are challenging to breakdown or swallow. These foods include:
- Mixed consistency foods – these are any foods with more than one texture or consistency that can prove challenging for someone with dysphagia. E.g. cereals that do not blend well with milk, minced meat with a gravy that is thin, bread that has been dipped in soup.
- Food that contains husks (husks are the dry outer covering of some fruits or seeds) - e.g. granary or other multi-grain breads and vegetables such as sweetcorn.
- Foods with a fibrous or ‘stringy’ texture - e.g. celery, green beans, melted cheese or pineapple.
- Fruit or vegetables with thick skins, seeds or pips - e.g. baked beans, peas, grapes and tomatoes.
- Crunchy and crumbly items such as toasts, biscuits, crackers, crisps, pie crusts.
- Hard foods – sweets, tough meat, nuts, seeds.
10. Dysphagia can be more easily managed at home using Wiltshire Farm Foods.
At Wiltshire Farm Foods, we are proud to be able to help take the stress out of preparing texture modified meals at home. Our award-winning Softer Foods range has been expertly designed by our in house Dietitian and dedicated team of chefs to take the hassle out of home blending. Not only are our meals made to be as safe as possible for those with swallowing difficulties, they look and taste delicious!
All our meals are delivered directly to your freezer by one of our friendly local drivers, meaning that our great food is there when you need it, and on ice when you don’t.
Why not take a look at our Softer Foods brochure, which features our Softer Foods range in more detail. Simply request a free brochure from the link below.
*Wiltshire Farm Foods content does not replace the advice of any registered Healthcare Professional and you should always seek the advice of your General Practitioner when making changes to your diet. The guidelines in this article are for general healthy eating purposes and if you have any conditions that may require a specialised diet or fluid restriction then you must follow the advice of your dedicated Healthcare Professional.