Swallowing problems can be the result of many different neurologic conditions or events. The most common cause of neurologic dysphagia is stroke. However, patients may also have neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis (MS), muscular dystrophies (MD), and other disorders that result in swallowing difficulty that is progressive over time.
Symptoms of Neurologic Dysphagia
Patient’s with swallowing disorders experience symptoms such as feeling like food or pills stick in their throat, the sensation of liquids “going down the wrong pipe,” increased mealtimes, having to modify your diet, weight loss, and needing to rinse food down with liquids. A neurologic condition may also be accompanied by changes in speech, mobility, coordination, and breathing.
Neurologic Dysphagia Diagnosis
Swallowing disorders are diagnosed through either a flexible endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES) or modified barium swallow study (MBS). These evaluations will show how the swallowing muscles are functioning, and guide individualized treatment plans.
Neurologic Dysphagia Treatment
Depending on the etiology of the swallowing disorder, treatment can vary broadly. For example, stroke and Parkinson’s Disease are known to be responsive to exercise treatment, and patients may participate in swallowing therapy. Exercise therapy is not as clearly beneficial in conditions like ALS, and so treatment might focus more on dietary modifications and compensatory strategies to make swallowing safer and easier during meals.