Problems with eating, drinking or swallowing commonly occur as part of a neurological condition. Muscle weakness, slowness and incoordination can significantly affect the complex sequences of movements required to eat, drink and swallow safely. When difficulties are undiagnosed or not managed effectively, there is an increased likelihood of choking episodes, dehydration, weight loss, malnutrition and of developing recurrent chest infections or aspiration pneumonia.
You may find that you:
- cough or choke when you eat or drink
- have problems with food or drink 'going down the wrong way'
- get short of breath whilst eating or drinking
- have problems chewing your food and may even have to spit it out - especially meat or bread
- have to avoid certain consistencies, flavours or temperatures of food or drink because they are difficult for you to swallow
- get food or drink stuck in your throat and struggle to clear it away
- feel embarrassed when eating out or with family and friends and start to avoid these situations
- drool or lose saliva from the corners of your mouth during meals or at other times
- are losing weight or have lost interest in eating because it is such an effort for you
- have frequent chest infections which may clear up with antibiotics, but soon re-occur
Our Speech & Language Therapy can help you by:
- assisting you to get a written referral letter from your GP or Consultant enabling us to assess your swallowing.
- assessing your eating and drinking and identifying any problems.
- helping you understand the normal swallowing process and what is going wrong with your swallow.
- making you aware of the signs which indicate there is a problem with you being able to swallow safely and place you at increased risk of a chest infection or pneumonia.
- advising about the safest food and drink consistencies in order to minimise the risk of food/drink going down the wrong way.
- assisting you in making an informed decision about what to eat and drink based on a sound understanding of the nature of your swallowing difficulties.
- advising about strategies such as changes to the environment or to your posture which will promote safer swallowing.
- helping you manage your swallowing difficulties including problems with controlling saliva and swallowing medications.
- monitoring changes (improvement or deterioration) over time and updating your safe swallowing advice accordingly.
- advising about appropriate onward referral for further investigation such as a videofluoroscopy (moving x-ray image of your swallow) or to an ENT Consultant.