Swallowing is the process in the human that allows substance to pass from the mouth, to the pharynx, and into the esophagus, while shutting the epiglottis. Swallowing is an important part of eating and drinking.
As Simple as it might seem to healthy people, swallowing is actually a very complex action that requires an extremely precise coordination with breathing.
Swallowing involves 20 muscles of the mouth, throat, and esophagus.
Swallowing mechanism consists of 3 phases
· Oral phase
Voluntary part of swallowing.
Food is moistened with saliva and food bolus is formed.
Tongue pushes the bolus to the back of throat.
Starts with Lip closure.
· Pharyngeal phase
Starts with stimulation of tactile receptors in the oropharynx, swallow reflex is
Soft palate lifts to cutoff nasal airways.
Bolus moves over back tongue and the tongue blocks the oral cavity to prevent food
going to airway.
Epiglottis is pushed backward over larynx.
Larynx and vocal folds contract covering the entry of the trachea to protect airways,
respiration temporary arrested.
Upper esophageal sphincter opens to allow passage to esophagus.
· Esophageal phase
Food bolus is propelled down the esophagus by peristalsis.
Larynx moves down back to original position.
Dysphagia (Difficulty in Swallowing)
Dysphagia refers to a difficulty in swallowing – it takes more effort than normal to move food from the mouth to the stomach
Impaired swallowing can originates from disturbances in the mouth, pharynx or esophagus.
Signs and Symptoms of dysphagia.
Depending upon the cause of dysphagia the difficulty in swallowing can be mild or severe.
Some affected individuals may have trouble swallowing both solids and liquids, while other may experience problems only with solid foods.
Occasionally, there is more trouble with liquid than solids.
If solid food lodges in the esophagus it may be felt with severe chest discomfort.
Dysphagia is present in approximately 51 % to 73 % of individual with stroke.
When to meet a swallowing Pathologist?
If you are finding difficulty in swallowing, you should contact your healthcare professional for an evaluation.
The Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) will utilize a combination of compensatory treatment strategies to improve the safety of oral intake by reducing your risk for aspiration.