Dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, can have a big impact on somebody’s quality of life. It can cause you to struggle eating your favorite foods and live your life with the looming fear that you’re going to choke. There are several factors that can cause this condition. Neurological disorders, structural abnormalities, and medical conditions – or the medications used to treat them – are all common culprits.
While this condition isn’t talked about a lot, it can have a huge impact on quality of life. Let’s look into the symptoms, how they affect you, and what can be done about them.
Eating and Drinking
The reduced ability to eat and drink is one of the biggest impacts of dysphagia on the person. People who have this condition might struggle to chew and swallow solid food, drink liquids, or both. This is not only frustrating, but it can also lead to a range of unwanted side effects, such as struggling to get the right nutrition, leading to sickness and weight loss.
To make it easier, people with dysphagia might follow a special diet such as a diet of pureed foods, or a ‘mechanical soft diet’, which is designed to stick to foods that are soft and easy to consume. Therapies such as throat exercises are also available to help make swallowing easier. For those who have trouble swallowing liquids, thickening gels are available – get more information here.
Dysphagia can also have a serious impact on a person’s social life. When you struggle to eat and drink, going out for a meal with family or meeting up with a friend for a coffee might fill you with dread. As a result, people with this condition are often deprived of the social connections that they need.
With a big part of our lives often revolving around eating and drinking, people with dysphagia may begin to feel left-out and anxious. If your friend or relative has this condition, reach out to them, and arrange to do something together that doesn’t involve food, like watching a movie or going for a walk.
Perhaps the most significant way that dysphagia can impact a person’s life and health is when it comes to their nutrition. Without the ability to eat and drink well, people with this condition often lose weight very quickly. Their bodies are simply not getting the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that they need to be healthy and well. So, they might also suffer from other side effects such as fatigue, brittle bones, and thinning hair.
Dehydration is also a huge problem for people with this condition who struggle to swallow liquids. Not getting enough water can lead to headaches, dry skin, fatigue, and more serious symptoms.
It’s important to put preventative measures in place before dysphagia reaches this severity. For example, eating a soft diet, using thickening products, and working with a speech-language pathologist can all help people with dysphagia get the nutrition they need and alleviate the symptoms.
Dysphagia is a condition that doesn’t often get spoken about – but for those suffering with it, it can have a huge impact on every aspect of their life.