While speech pathologists specialise in diagnosing and treating communication disorders such as those related to articulation and speech, another area that they work in, that is of equal importance, pertains to a disorder, known as dysphagia, that causes difficulties swallowing and can become a serious matter if not properly and quickly handled.
Dysphagia can be brought on from a broad spectrum of reasons, ranging from strokes, GERD, growths, infections, birth defects and many more. A qualified speech pathologist can diagnose dysphagia by observing patients who have difficulty swallowing solids and liquids, or that gag and choke or have pain when attempting to swallow, or exhibit rapid weight loss due to inability to eat. Through a series of evaluations, the speech pathologist narrows down the causes and can determine a proper course of action to handle the dysphagia.
One technique often used by a speech pathologist for a person facing dysphagia is to practice a series of exercises meant to strengthen their ability to swallow, working the muscles involved within the throat, tongue and mouth so as to ease the process itself. Sometimes, the problem arises from a combination of problems that lie in multiple areas and it becomes necessary for a patient to learn to position their body so as to ease the process of swallowing. At times, a specific diet of foods can be proscribed with certain textures that are easier to swallow and pass through the oesophagus with little difficulty.
A number of surgeries are available for those suffering from dysphagia which a speech pathologist can recommend if the problem has its root in a type of blockage within the oesophagus, such as dysphagia related to a tumor or abnormal growth that must be removed in order to attain normal swallowing. Other applicable procedures include an endoscopy, where a thin tube is used to remove the blockage, and dilation by which a device is inserted to expand or narrow the oesophagus.
A person’s ability to swallow is critical to their health and wellbeing, and dysphagia can become life threatening if not handled properly by a speech pathologist with the knowledge and ability to diagnose and treat it. If a person believes themselves to be suffering from some form of dysphagia, seeking out a qualified and experienced speech pathologist is essential, so that the problem can be diagnosed and handled expediently and efficiently.