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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
  • Drooling
  • 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