June Is Dysphagia Awareness Month!

From the desk of Carol Winchester, President & Founder of DMS

Being aware of an issue is the biggest step in remediating or compensating for that issue. This month we highlight Dysphagia Awareness Month. It is a time to reflect on one’s risks of having dysphagia. That seems like an easier statement than it really is. Let me explain. 

Dysphagia is not a diagnosis in and of itself as it is not a primary medical issue. It is caused by something else. For example, one does not wake up one morning and suddenly have trouble swallowing without something else going on. It doesn’t happen in a bubble. The key to addressing a swallowing issue is to identify why it’s happening and what, if anything, can be done to resolve the primary medical issue and the resulting dysphagia. There are obvious causes for dysphagia, or swallowing problems, such as having had a stroke, pneumonia, or having a progressive neurological disease such as Parkinson’s. There are also not-so obvious causes such as having diabetes, reflux, a pulmonary issue, or even a virus like the flu or Covid.  It is also important to realize that cognitive decline precedes dysphagia because of the coordination of movements generated from the central command center in the brain every time one swallows. Therefore, if someone has a medical issue that decreases oxygen or neurological signals to the brain, causing cognitive interruption, subtle signs of swallowing issues may arise with time. Finally, medications can affect the swallow in unanticipated ways. If you have started a new medication and you notice a lump in the throat or that you are coughing or clearing your throat more often, check it out with your physician or local speech pathologist. 

Finding out your risk for dysphagia is very important to your overall health, especially as you age. We developed a simple tool to assess what your risk is, given your medical diagnosis, living situation, and symptoms considerations. This self-generated test only takes a few minutes, and the results can literally change your life. 

Too dramatic a statement? I think not, as feeling better, freeing yourself of annoying symptoms, and being able to control how you feel is truly life-changing for someone that has developed dysphagia. Take the Dysphagia Risk Assessment, look around the SwallowSafe.com website for valuable information on managing dysphagia, in the course of normal daily activities, and let us know if you have any questions!

Be aware of your dysphagia risks. It could literally save your life!

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