Dysphagia is common among elders, but age is not a medical cause for the condition. Rather, seniority is a most common risk factor that a majority of patients suffering from dysphagia share. If you have an older family member above the age of 60-65, get to know what the condition is exactly and how to confirm it. Early action can prevent a lot of grief later.
Dysphagia is a broad medical term that designates all forms of chronic swallowing difficulties. Therefore, it should not be treated as a disease, but one of the main symptoms of the responsible disease. Dysphagia cannot be confirmed by nonmedical personnel, but we can certainly suspect it by keeping an eye out for the common symptoms.
Symptoms of Dysphagia
The most common symptoms of dysphagia can be easily identified even in their early stages. Most seniors who experience dysphagia will talk about it, which makes it easy to look out for the following common symptoms:
- Painful, difficult chewing and swallowing.
- Observable bouts of choking and coughing while trying to swallow food or water.
- Unconscious drooling without hunger stimulation.
- Sore throat; strained, hoarse voice without a throat infection; feelings of having a throat lump.
- Vomiting while or after eating or drinking.
- The presence of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) symptoms like heartburns, regurgitation, lower chest/upper abdominal pain, acidity, etc.
- Previously unreported symptoms of asthma without a chest infection.
It is important never to ignore the complaints of an elder, as they are often our biggest clues towards suspecting dysphagia. Ignoring the complaints can even lead to their death from choking, especially if the condition has reached an advanced stage.
By now, you should have a pretty good idea about what dysphagia is and how to suspect it. Although confirming dysphagia is not the job of an unqualified family member, there are proven and effective remedial actions that you can take even before the dysphagia is identified and confirmed through testing by a physician.
Learn more about how to use the SimplyThick dysphagia thickener to thicken food and beverages before serving meals. Even severe dysphagia patients find it easier to swallow their daily fill of nutrition and hydration with the help of food and beverage thickeners. Also, use a blender to soften and turn food into slurry for them. Be careful not to serve anything with choking hazards such as bone fragments in their meals.
Confirming dysphagia will require the patient to first be checked by a physician. They will order one or more of the appropriate medical examinations to know for sure. The thing is, there are various forms of dysphagia and even a doctor cannot confirm what kind of dysphagia it is and what’s causing the swallowing problems without test results.
Generally, dysphagia is identified from the results of a barium swallow test, but other tests may also be ordered by the physician. If needed, they will refer the patient to a specialist more suited to treat the disease responsibly.