Dysphagia is a relatively common medical condition that tends to affect older people. It occurs when the person experiences moderate to severe difficulties in swallowing food and beverages.
In severe cases, this can lead to a greatly increased risk of choking when consuming meals and drinks. There are a wide variety of causes for the condition, but one common cause is in patients who have experienced a stroke or TIA.
In these circumstances, they may sustain damage to their swallowing reflexes as a direct result of any neurological damage or paralysis that was caused by having a stroke.
Patients with dysphagia can experience significant problems at meal times, and the condition needs to be thoroughly investigated to find a suitable treatment plan. In this article, two methods of diagnosing dysphagia in patients will be discussed, along with two specific forms of treatment that can help patients manage the condition.
Barium x rays
One key way to provide an accurate diagnosis of dysphagia is to request that the patient undertakes a barium X-ray. In this type of diagnostic test, a barium solution is consumed by the patient, and then an X-ray of the throat is taken. The barium solution allows the x-ray to create a detailed picture of the esophagus, and an assessment of the functioning of the muscles in this area can then be conducted by a trained medical professional.
Another popular way to diagnose dysphagia is by undertaking a dynamic swallowing assessment. This is quite similar in nature to the above method but involves eating a range of different foods of varying sizes and consistencies. These food products are also coated in barium, and as they travel down the throat, images are taken that can be interpreted to understand how the swallowing reflex is functioning and if any problems can be identified.
Using food thickening products
One of the most effective methods of treating patients with moderate to severe dysphagia is to mix food-thickening products with their food and beverages. Products such as this include SimplyThick thickener ingredients that increase the viscosity of liquids and foods.
Put simply, foods and drinks that have a thicker consistency are significantly easier to swallow and can reduce the likelihood of choking on food and drink for sufferers of the medical condition. This type of treatment is commonly used for a wide range of patients and has been shown to dramatically improve their quality of life while also helping to reduce fear and anxiety at mealtimes.
Help from speech therapists
Another highly effective treatment for dysphasia patients is for them to seek the help and guidance of a speech therapist who has training in this specific area. The speech therapist will be able to offer a wide range of techniques to help alleviate the symptoms of dysphasia, which can include asking the patient to try regular swallowing exercises that are designed to improve the muscle functioning in the throat.
The patient may also be encouraged to reposition their head or body when consuming food and drinks to aid the swallowing process. This type of therapy, along with the use of thickening ingredients for food and drinks, has been shown to be remarkably effective in allowing dysphagia patients to control and manage their condition.