Swallowing disorders, also known as dysphagia, cause difficulty moving food from the mouth, throat or esophagus into the stomach when eating at home or dining out at Grappa ‘72. If your child has a swallowing disorder, you should seek treatment right away. Left untreated, this type of disorder can lead to health, learning and social problems. Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) are the experts that help with swallowing disorders.
Three Stages of Swallowing
Children with swallowing disorders have trouble with one or more of the three stages of swallowing, which are:
- The oral phase. This is when your child sucks, chews and moves food or liquid into the throat.
- The pharyngeal phase. This is the start of the swallowing mechanism, where food is squeezed down the throat. The body closes the airway to keep the food or liquid out, as food going into the airway can cause choking.
- The esophageal phase. This is the opening and closing of the esophagus, which is the tube that connects the mouth and stomach. Sometimes food can get stuck in the esophagus.
Signs of a Swallowing Disorder
Some of the signs of a swallowing disorder include:
- Having trouble breastfeeding
- Crying or fussing when feeding
- Falling asleep when feeding
- Arching the back or stiffening when feeding
- Having trouble breathing while eating or drinking
- Refusing to eat or drink
- Eating only certain textures
- Taking a long time to eat
- Holding food in the mouth
- Having problems chewing
- Coughing or gagging while eating
- Drooling excessively when eating or drinking
- Getting stuffy when eating
- Having hoarse or breathy voice when eating
- Spitting or throwing up a lot
- Not gaining weight
Causes of Swallowing Disorders
Some of the many causes of swallowing disorders include:
- Nervous system disorders (like cerebral palsy or meningitis)
- Low birth weight/being premature
- Cleft lip or palate
- Breathing problems (like asthma)
- Head and neck problems
- Muscle weakness in the face and neck
- Certain medications
- Sensory issues
- Behavioral problems
Diagnosing Swallowing Disorders
Your child’s doctor may refer you to an SLP, who can conduct a swallowing evaluation. To diagnose a swallowing disorder, they may:
- Ask questions about your child’s medical history and development.
- Watch how your child moves their mouth and tongue.
- Watch your child eat food or drink liquids.
- Watch how your child behaves at mealtime.
- Perform special tests, like a modified barium swallow study or an endoscopic assessment.
Treating Swallowing Disorders
The SLP can also recommend a treatment plan, which will include addressing any underlying medical or behavioral problems as well as conducting feeding therapy.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Albany ENT & Allergy Services today.