Lacombe Nursing Centre on Dysphagia
By Samantha R. Young, MCD CCC/SLP, Program Manager, Lacombe Nursing Centre, New Orleans LIVING WELL Magazine
Dysphagia is a medical term used to diagnose a swallowing disorder. By definition, dysphagia is an impaired swallowing ability, resulting from disease or damage to the cranial nerves or brainstem. Dysphagia is not a disease in and of itself, but rather a symptom of disease affecting any part of the swallowing tract, from the mouth to the stomach. The resulting impairment may range from mild discomfort to life threatening disability. Dysphagia can affect any group, but most often presents among the elderly.
Possible causes of dysphagia include the following: trauma or injuries to the head or neck area; cancer (primarily head, neck, and pulmonary); congenital defects; developmental disabilities; neurological disorders (e.g. CVA, ALS, brain tumor, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s); gastrointestinal disorders; psychological problems (e.g. alcohol abuse); and respiratory/infections (e.g. tracheotomy and COPD).
Indications of potential swallowing problems include the following: decreased cognitive and perceptual status; abnormal head and body position; decreased upper extremity motor function; slow eating; effortful and/or prolonged chewing; drooling of liquids or solids; holding food in mouth; coughing or choking; changes in vocal quality after swallowing (e.g. “wet” voice); discomfort during swallowing; copious secretions; reduced appetite and/or poor oral intake; weight loss of unexplained etiology; recurrent pneumonia of unknown origin; labored breathing/shortness of breath; swallowing several times to clear food in mouth; and runny nose.
VitalStim therapy is an FDA cleared treatment method (since 2001) used to promote swallowing through the application of neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) to the swallowing muscles in conjunction with conventional swallowing exercises.
Samantha R. Young, MCD CCC/SLP can be reached at Lacombe Nursing Centre at 985-882-5417.