Complications of dysphagia
Someone who is experiencing swallowing difficulties (dysphagia) may show the following signs:
• Problems swallowing certain foods or liquids; or inability to swallow at all
• Discomfort or pain when swallowing
• Coughing or choking when eating food or drinking liquids
• Regurgitation of food, sometimes through the nose
• A feeling that food is stuck in the throat or chest
When someone has dysphagia food and drink can go down the wrong way into the lungs instead of the stomach and there is a risk of accidentally breathing in the food or liquid – this is known as aspiration.
If dysphagia goes untreated, over time, it can also lead to the following.
Weight loss and under nourishment
Changes in appetite in the elderly can be intensified by dysphagia because difficulty chewing and swallowing limits what someone can and cannot eat, and if they are not able to eat the same textures that they are used to, they may not be able to eat adequate amounts. In this instance, dysphagia can contribute to weight loss and under nourishment (also known as malnutrition).
Malnutrition is a nutritional deficiency and a complication of dysphagia, especially in the case of people who are not aware that they have dysphagia and are not being treated for it. When someone is malnourished, their health can worsen because they are likely to be eating less of their meals and thus not get the full nutrition it has to offer.
Our Purée Petite range contains energy dense meals in manageable portion sizes so that people with smaller appetites on a Level 4 Puréed diet are more likely to manage a full meal and benefit from all of the nutrition. The portion sizes in our Purée Petite range are 40% smaller than our Purée Classic meals, but they still provide at least 500 calories and 16-23 grams of protein.
Similar to eating, drinking fluids when you have dysphagia can sometimes be painful and dangerous and can lead to choking and aspiration. This being the case it is quite common for people with dysphagia to refuse to drink fluids, which can lead to dehydration. As with changing the texture of food, people with dysphagia might need to alter the thickness of their fluids using thickening agents. There are many different types on the market and your GP or Speech and Language Therapist will be able to assist in finding one that’s right for you.
When the mechanism of swallowing isn’t functioning as it should, there are some immediate concerns. Choking on food or feeling the need to cough after eating or drinking is clearly a worrying sign, however, if food or liquid does pass down the trachea and into the lungs that can cause a more serious issue: aspiration pneumonia. The NHS website describes aspiration pneumonia as “a chest infection that can develop after accidentally inhaling something, such as a small piece of food. It causes irritation in the lungs, or damages them.”
If food has gone down the wrong way, this is indeed a serious medical concern and can lead to death in extreme cases.
The risk of aspiration can cause anxiety at meal times for those with dysphagia. Our range of Softer Foods helps combat this, with easy to prepare ready meals that are safe and delicious.
Order a FREE Brochure
Request a free brochure to browse all of our Specialist Nutrition meal ranges:
Main brochure - includes all of our delicious meals. You will be able to find our Specialist Nutrition ranges in their own section at the back.
Softer Foods brochure - includes our range of meals for those with swallowing difficulties.Request a brochure