We treat all problems affecting; speech, language, communication, eating & drinking.

Eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties

At Manchester SLT we have a highly specialised treatment service for adults with eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties. Our speech and language therapists aim to improve an individual's swallow to their highest potential and have them eating and drinking as safely and independently as possible.

What are eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties?

Eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties occur when an individual has any difficulty eating, drinking or swallowing food or liquids safely.

Eating drinking and swallowing difficulties can also be termed Dysphagia. Individuals may have difficulties swallowing specific foods or liquids whilst others will not be able to swallow at all.

Eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties can occur as a result of many disorders and conditions. The most common cause of dysphagia is neurological disorders other causes include head and neck cancer and behavioural conditions.

Swallowing is a complex process and involves numerous muscles and nerves. The normal swallow can be broken down in to three stages:

The oral stage

This stage involves chewing or preparing the food / liquid to be passed through the pharynx.

The pharyngeal stage

This stage involves the initiation of the swallow and the food / liquid being squeezed through the throat. During this stage the airway is protected and closed off to stop food from entering the airway, which can lead to choking and in the long run chest infections / pneumonia.

The oesophageal phase

This stage involves the food / liquid being passed through the oesophagus and into stomach, this happens when the muscles at the top and bottom of the feeding tube relax and contract.

Eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties can occur at any stage of the swallow and will affect individuals in different ways. In more severe cases an individual may not be able to swallow at all which may lead to them needing an alternative feeding method e.g. a feeding tube.

Having an eating, drinking and swallowing difficulty can have a huge impact on a patient's social, emotional and nutritional status.

What are the symptoms of eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties in adults?

There are many different symptoms and complications which can be caused by eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties. Signs and symptoms of eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties include:

  • Coughing before, during or after eating, drinking and swallowing.
  • Chocking.
  • Pain when swallowing.
  • Feeling that something is stuck or lodged in the throat.
  • A wet or gurgly sounding voice, during or just after eating and drinking.
  • Regular throat clearing.
  • Fatiguing easily whilst eating or drinking.
  • Food or drink spilling / leaking from the mouth.

Eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties can lead to health complications which include:

  • Weight loss
  • Reduced nutritional status
  • Aspiration pneumonia
  • Chest infections

How does speech and language therapy help individuals with eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties?

Speech and language therapy is highly beneficial for individuals with eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties. Speech and language therapy will focus on improving an individual's swallow and maximising their ability to eat and drink as safely as possible.

An initial assessment carried out by the speech and language therapist will determine the type and severity of the individual's eating, drinking and swallowing problem. Following an initial assessment, the speech and language therapist will devise an individualised treatment plan which will be tailored to the individual's specific needs and abilities.

There are a number of treatment options available for individuals with eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties. The type of treatment given will vary for each individual and be dependent on a number of factors including; the type and severity of the individual's difficulties, their overall ability and their preferences for treatment.

If eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties are not managed in the early stages this can lead to health complications such as reduced nutritional status, weight loss, chest infections and pneumonia.

The earlier treatment is received the better the outcome will be for the individual.

Different treatment options include:

  • Diet modification - this can include pureeing food and adding thickener to liquids.
  • Swallowing techniques or manoeuvres - this can include new ways of learning how to swallow and strategies to make it easier to eat and drink.
  • Advice and support - this can include advice and support for the individual, their carers / family members and other professionals involved in their care.
  • Alternative methods of feeding - in more severe cases where a patient is not safe to eat and drink at all they may need to consider alternative ways of gaining nutrition i.e. feeding tubes.
  • Training

Speech and language therapy at Manchester SLT is highly beneficial for individuals with eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties and helps to prevent health complications, increase self-esteem and confidence about eating and drinking.

How can I book a speech and language therapy appointment for eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties?

If you feel that speech and language therapy would be beneficial and would like to book an appointment with one of our highly specialised speech and language therapists please contact us by emailing info@manchesterslt.co.uk or calling 0161 883 0111.

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