Swallowing problems (dysphagia) may result from dementia, stroke, various neurological diseases (Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease etc), learning disability and a range of other acute and chronic health conditions.
If you or your relative are experiencing swallowing difficulties, there may be a high risk of food, fluid and saliva ‘going down the wrong way’. This is when it enters the wind pipe or the lungs. This is known as aspiration. Aspiration can be uncomfortable as it can cause coughing and/or choking. However sometimes it happens with no immediate signs or symptoms (silent aspiration). Aspiration can be dangerous as it can lead to pneumonia (an infection in the lungs).
Speech and Language Therapists (SLT) specialise in the assessment and treatment of dysphagia and in many cases are able to find ways to reduce the risks for people with swallowing difficulties.
However, for some patients, even with support, their swallow is just not safe.