Swallow Therapy

Swallowing / Dysphagia

Dysphagia is the medical term for problems with managing food, liquids and secretions. Because the act of chewing, managing and swallowing is so complex (over 35 muscles must coordinate with split second timing), many medical conditions can lead to choking, incomplete clearance of materials from the throat or mouth, or even pneumonia.

Symptoms of Dysphagia include:

  • choking when eating or drinking
  • a “wet” or gurgly voice quality after eating or drinking
  • weight loss or loss of appetite (long-term)
  • the feeling of material being caught or stuck in your throat
  • repeat chest infections or pneumonias


Causes of dysphagia are usually either brain injuries or injuries/deficits in the muscles of the mouth, throat, or larynx. Occasional emotional causes can cause difficulties with swallowing.

Conditions that can cause difficulties swallowing:

  • brain injuries from accidents, injuries, infections
  • strokes
  • tumors of the head and neck
  • Parkinsons Disease
  • myasthenia gravis, multiple sclerosis, ALS and other neurologic conditions


Medical speech pathologists can assess how well the mechanism is working that you use to manage foods, liquids, and secretions. This can be done with simple clinical evaluation, or with the use of a scope (Flexible Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing FEES), or in front of an x-ray machine /fluoroscopy (Modified Barium Swallow)

By Normaler_Schluck-00.jpg (and others): Hellerhoff derivative work: Anka Friedrich [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Normal Swallow.