What are the signs of dysphagia?
It’s worrying to think that you, or someone you’re caring for, might be suffering from dysphagia.
The first thing to establish is: is there difficulty or discomfort when swallowing?
You should look out for any combination of the following, in yourself or the person you’re caring for:
- Food in the nose
- A constant feeling that food is stuck in the throat or a feeling of having a lump in the throat
- Changes in voice, including nasal or ‘wet’ speech
- Difficulty chewing or controlling food in the mouth
- If the person avoids swallowing food (‘pockets’ it)
- Coughing or choking when swallowing
- Frequent throat clearing
- Problems with the ‘gag reflex’ – when it’s a struggle to clear food, cough, or breathe
- Odd breathing or attempts to speak while swallowing
- Changes in eating habits – e.g. eating slowly, or avoiding meals altogether
In the longer-term, extra symptoms of dysphagia may appear:
- Significant, unintended weight loss (more than 10% of body weight over six months)
- Unexplained, rapid rises in body temperature
- Recurrent chest infections or pneumonia
- General weakness, a noticeable change in mental status, and the overall effects of losing strength