Speech Therapy For Adults With Feeding And Swallowing Disorders

Speech Therapy For Adults With Feeding And Swallowing Disorders | Voz Speech Therapy Services Bilingual Speech Therapist Clinic Washington DC

Food is something we all think about in some way or another.

Whether you’re thinking about tonight’s dinner or a tasty snack to get you through the work day, food is on your mind every day.

However, if you find yourself more worried about whether you’re going to choke on your food than anything else, you might have a feeding and swallowing disorder.

There are many reasons why you might develop a feeding and swallowing disorder as an adult.

The good news is that an adult speech therapist can help.

Let’s take a closer look at what feeding and swallowing disorders are and how a speech therapist can help you.

RECAP: What Is Feeding And Swallowing?

We previously talked about feeding and swallowing on this blog when we talked about kids with feeding and swallowing disorders.

But that was last month, so let’s recap.

Feeding and swallowing refers to the entire process of getting food from your plate to your stomach.

It can sound simple, but there’s actually a lot involved in this process.

First, you have to be able to bring food to your mouth.

Then, you have to be able to coordinate your jaw.

That’s necessary to open your mouth to put food in and also to chew the food.

After that, you need to be able to coordinate your tongue to help you swallow.

Your tongue is essential at making sure food goes down your esophagus and not in your airway.

When adults experience barriers to feeding and swallowing, it can have many different effects.

The most serious of these effects include malnutrition and dehydration because your body isn’t getting enough food or water.

If you experience a feeding and swallowing disorder, you may also lose interest in food.

Some adults with feeding and swallowing disorders may experience embarrassment eating in front of others or isolation related to their disorder.

There are four important phases of the feeding and swallowing process.

First, the oral preparatory phase.

When you put food in your mouth, you use your teeth, jaw, and tongue to chew it and turn it into a soft mass, called a bolus.

This also includes sucking liquids from a cup, straw, spoon, or other implement.

Next, the oral transit phase.

This is where you move the food in your mouth to prepare it for swallowing, then initiate swallowing.

Then, the pharyngeal phase.

This is where your pharyngeal muscles contract involuntarily, moving your food through your pharynx.

An important part of this phase is closing off your airway as you swallow.

Finally, the esophageal phase.

This is where your esophageal muscles contract to move your food down toward your stomach.

A feeding or swallowing disorder can take place at any of the points in this process.

What Are Feeding And Swallowing Disorders In Adults?

Now that we understand the mechanics of feeding and swallowing, let’s take a closer look at feeding and swallowing disorders.

Feeding and swallowing disorders are also referred to as dysphagia.

If you experience disruption at any point during the feeding or swallowing process, you may be experiencing dysphagia.

In adults, dysphagia becomes more common as you age.

However, it can also happen at any age.

Often, neurological disorders are associated with dysphagia.

If you think you or someone you care for might be experiencing dysphagia, there are many signs and symptoms to watch out for.

It’s important to know that not all of these symptoms are seen in all types of dysphagia.

You might have a feeding or swallowing disorder if you notice that you:

  • Need extra time to chew or swallow
  • Feel like food sticks in your neck
  • Can’t keep your lips closed while you eat
  • Don’t chew effectively
  • Experience food or liquid coming out of your nose while you eat
  • Have a wet or gurgled sounding voice after you eat
  • Often experience aspiration pneumonia
  • Have begun experiencing weight loss, malnutrition, or dehydration

What Causes Adult Feeding And Swallowing Disorders?

There are many causes of feeding and swallowing disorders in adults.

Dysphagia could be caused by conditions that affect your head or neck.

This could include conditions like:

  • Cancer in your oral cavity or esophagus
  • Surgery in your head or neck
  • Radiation therapy in your head or neck
  • Intubation or tracheostomy

You may also experience a feeding and swallowing disorder after injury or damage to your central nervous system, such as:

Finally, there are other factors that can also be linked to feeding and swallowing disorders.

This includes factors such as:

  • Pulmonary diseases like COPD
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Side effects from certain medication
  • Cardiothoracic surgery
  • Infectious diseases like COVID-19, sepsis, or AIDS

How To Tell If You Have A Feeding And Swallowing Disorder | Voz Speech Therapy Services Bilingual Speech Therapist Clinic Washington DC

How Do Speech Therapists Screen For Feeding And Swallowing Disorders?

As you can see, there are a lot of conditions that can cause feeding and swallowing disorders.

That’s where professional help comes in.

If you suspect that you or someone you care for might be experiencing dysphagia, a speech therapist can help.

A speech therapy screening for adult dysphagia might involve a few different things, and there are two different ways your speech therapist can approach it.

Your speech therapist can use either a non instrumental swallowing test, an instrumental swallowing test, or both.

So what does this mean?

Let’s take a closer look.

Non Instrumental Swallowing Test

If your speech therapist uses a non instrumental swallowing test to check for dysphagia, they are looking for outward signs of dysphagia.

Your speech therapist might start by providing you with a questionnaire.

This questionnaire will assess your concerns with your swallowing function.

They might also ask you questions outside of the questionnaire about the difficulty you experience with feeding or swallowing.

These questions will likely include information about your health history.

This helps your speech therapist determine if you have any current disorders that may cause dysphagia.

After all, no one knows your body or your experiences better than you.

Your speech therapist will likely also assess your vocal quality and may observe you as you eat.

That way they can watch for any outward signs of dysphagia by assessing things like your posture, your jaw movement, and behaviors like clearing your throat.

Instrumental Swallowing Test

In an instrumental swallowing test, your speech therapist will use one of two types of instrumental tests to assess your swallowing.

The first test is called a videofluoroscopic swallowing study.

For this test, your speech therapist provides you with food that has contrast dye mixed in.

This lets your speech therapist watch the path your food takes through your body as you swallow.

They do this through an x ray.

The second type of swallowing test your speech therapist might use is called a flexible endoscopic evaluation of swallowing.

To do this, your speech therapist places a thin instrument through your nose.

This instrument allows them to see into your throat as you swallow.

How Can Speech Therapy Help?

Speech therapists aren’t just experts in speech.

We’re experts in all things related to speech, language, and swallowing.

That’s why, when you’re experiencing difficulty feeding and swallowing, speech therapists are the ones to help.

Your speech therapists will work with you to create a treatment plan that suits your needs.

Generally, the goal of treatment for feeding and swallowing disorders is to improve nutrition.

Depending on the cause of your dysphagia, your speech therapist will either work with you to restore your ability to swallow or to create compensatory behaviors to help you eat safely.

Your speech therapist may also work with you to identify diet changes you can make to help you with swallowing.

Often, this is related to the texture of the food you eat.

No matter the specific course of treatment, your speech therapist will always work with you to ensure the treatment goals meet your needs.

Book Your Appointment With Voz Speech Therapy Today

Experiencing feeding and swallowing disorders can be frustrating and isolating, but you aren’t alone.

If you suspect you or someone you care for may have a feeding and swallowing disorder, we can help.

Book your appointment with Voz Speech Therapy today.

Voz Speech Therapy
1331 H St NW Ste 200,
Washington, DC 20005

(202) 734-4884
- https://g.page/vozspeechtherapy

Voz Speech Therapy is a pediatric bilingual speech therapy clinic in Washington, DC that provides individualized services based on the specific needs of your or your child. Therapy sessions are provided in English or Spanish, depending on your child’s native language. Voz Speech Therapy es una clínica pediátrica bilingüe de terapia del habla en Washington, DC que brinda servicios individualizados según las necesidades específicas de usted o su hijo. Las sesiones de terapia se brindan en inglés o español, según el idioma nativo de su hijo.


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