What is Dysphagia?

What is Dysphagia?

Dysphagia is the term used to describe difficulty with swallowing. The action of swallowing has three phases (oral, pharyngeal, and esophageal) and dysphagia can occur during any of these phases. Dysphagia can occur in both children and adults.
Symptoms may include:
Coughing after eating
Gagging/coughing while eating
Leaking of food or liquid from the mouth or nose
Requiring extra time or effort to chew and/or swallow
Experiencing chronic pneumonia or respiratory infections
Changing vocal quality after eating (may sound gurgly, hoarse or breathy)

Because eating and drinking are crucial components to our daily lives, dysphagia can lead to both nutritional and social problems. For example, a person with dysphagia may experience dehydration or weight loss and/or may be less willing to participate in social activities due to embarrassment.


Some possible causes of dysphagia in children include:
Cerebral palsy

Cleft lip and/or palate


Some possible causes of dysphagia in adults include:
Brain injury
Parkinson’s Disease

Alzheimer’s Disease


If you suspect that you or a loved one is experiencing dysphagia, it is important that you speak to your doctor and undergo a swallowing evaluation. These evaluations are performed by speech-language pathologists with expertise and training in dysphagia. To find a speech-language pathologist who is board certified in swallowing and swallowing disorders, visit the American Board of Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders.  
ASHA. (n.d.). Feeding and Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia) in Children. Retrieved from http://www.asha.org/public/speech/swallowing/Feeding-and-Swallowing-Disorders-in-Children/

ASHA. (n.d.). Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia) in Adults.  Retrieved from http://www.asha.org/public/speech/swallowing/Swallowing-Disorders-in-Adults/
Courtney Caruso
Courtney Caruso
Courtney Caruso, M.S., CCC-SLP, is a bilingual (English/Spanish) speech-language pathologist and the owner and founder of Liberty Speech Associates LLC, a speech therapy practice in NJ and PA.