There’s a good chance that you’ve never thought twice about the mechanics involved in swallowing. It is a natural movement that your body does and you don’t even think about it. You chew your food, you swallow it. You take a sip of a beverage and swallow it. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for everyone as there are approximately 15 million people here in the United States that suffer from a swallowing disorder or difficulty swallowing. Dysphagia is the name given to swallowing disorders and it is estimated to affect one in 25 people. But what makes these disorders so dangerous? There are a few factors involved.
There Is the Risk of Choking
The number one risk and danger for those with dysphagia is the risk of choking when eating or drinking. Think about your own life and any time you may have choked on something, swallowed it wrong, or found yourself coughing up the beverage you just took a sip of. It can be incredibly scary at that moment, especially if you are on your own with no one to help should you need assistance. Now picture that being the daily life that those with dysphagia can be dealing with. The fear of choking is very real and it can have a negative effect both mentally and physically.
It’s Not Just Food that Can Cause Difficulties
For those who aren’t familiar with dysphagia and swallowing disorders, there is often a misconception that it only occurs when swallowing food. This isn’t the case, as even swallowing liquids can be dangerous. If a liquid is too thin, there is a risk of lung aspiration, which is extremely dangerous and can even lead to pneumonia.
To combat this issue, those with dysphagia have to be sure that whatever they swallow is the exact right consistency. In the case of a thin fluid, that means thickening it up with products such as Simply Thick. There is a careful and exact balance that needs to be achieved between being too thick and too thin. This is something the doctor will help advise patients on.
It Can Lead to Poor Nutrition
For a person with swallowing problems, the idea of eating food can be unappealing and even scary. If they aren’t eating enough food, they risk not getting enough nutrients in their body. Poor nutrition can lead to serious health problems that affect various aspects of your body. Insufficient nutrition can even affect a person’s mental well-being.
The Risk of Dehydration
Staying properly hydrated is important to your overall health. Those with swallowing disorders know this to be true but, again, there can be a fear and risk to drinking. Some of the serious complications that can arise from dehydration include:
- Heat injury
- Hypovolemic shock
- Cerebral edema
- Kidney failure
- Coma and even death in the most severe of cases
Each of these is very serious and should not be underestimated.
For those who have been diagnosed with a swallowing disorder, it is something that needs to be taken seriously, and the proper treatment plan should be followed to help prevent these serious issues from occurring.