Oddly, you may not even be familiar with the term “dysphagia” so if this is the case, it’s unlikely that you may even know how dangerous it can be. The term refers to a medical condition in which swallowing is difficult. Sometimes it’s severe and other times it’s mild but in any case, there are dangers to be aware of. First, let’s look at what dysphagia is and then what can happen if it is left undiagnosed and untreated.
Two Main Categories of Dysphagia
There are actually two main types of dysphagia, but both can result in an inability to swallow to some degree. This is why there are products on the market like SimplyThick Easy Mix that are mixed to beverages, hot and cold, so that someone suffering from dysphagia doesn’t aspirate when trying to drink.
The two main categories are oropharyngeal dysphagia and esophageal dysphagia. The first, oropharyngeal dysphagia is the type that causes difficulty swallowing between the mouth and throat. Esophageal dysphagia is the category for the type in which the problem lies between the mouth and stomach. That would be anything that obstructs swallowing in the esophagus, the tube between the throat and stomach. Treatments may be the same, but an accurate diagnosis is a must.
Common Dangers to Be Aware Of
As with any illness or condition that is left undiagnosed or untreated, there will be dangers to be aware of and so it is with dysphagia. Bear in mind that this is a condition that causes difficulty in swallowing which means that the dangers would be subsequent to that. Following are the three main dangers resulting from untreated dysphagia.
How many times have you been in the middle of taking a drink when someone cracks a joke, or something causes you to involuntarily take a breath? This can lead to aspiration which is water getting into the lungs. While you probably wouldn’t inhale enough to actually drown, other complications like pneumonia may result. That is what often happens to sufferers of dysphagia and sadly, irreparable damage can be done to various parts of the throat and esophagus. While a sufferer wouldn’t actually drown, in the old days it was called ‘dry drowning’ if the throat closed up during an incident and the person couldn’t inhale. This is one of the most important reasons to thicken beverages with products like that mentioned above.
Choking – Suffocation
Although there doesn’t seem to be any peer reviewed studies on this, it is thought that often cases where someone suffocated and died as a result of choking was caused by undiagnosed dysphagia. Whether food blocks the airway, or the throat closes up as a result of food getting caught in the throat or esophagus, choking can and has led to suffocation. It is suggested that all solid foods be pureed to be safe.
Malnourishment & Weight Loss
In many cases, people recognize that they have trouble eating or drinking and so they avoid foods and beverages as often as possible. Sufferers of untreated dysphagia have been documented as being malnourished with dangerous levels of weight loss.
It is vitally important to understand what dysphagia is, how it can affect someone suffering from it and why an accurate diagnosis is of prime importance. It can be a life-threatening condition if left untreated.