If you or a family member have been diagnosed with dysphagia, which is difficulty swallowing, you will want to know about risks and possible complications. Dysphagia can occur for several reasons and can be temporary or permanent. You might have to change what and how you eat to avoid the following complications.
Having problems swallowing can affect your nutrition. You want to make sure you can still take in the right amount of food and the right quality of food to get the vitamins and nutrients your body needs. Working with a nutritionist can help. You may have to eat different foods that are easier to swallow or change to a pureed diet. You also want to make sure you are getting enough fluids. Drinking water is important for our body’s normal functioning and without it, dehydration and electrolyte imbalances can occur.
Difficulty swallowing can lead to choking. Food needs to be propelled from the mouth down the esophagus and to the stomach. Part of this process involves closing the epiglottis (the tissue that closes the windpipe) so the food properly goes down the esophagus. If this tissue does not close off the windpipe, food can go down the windpipe and block the airway. This causes choking and is a life-threatening condition. If this happens, emergency medical therapy is needed, starting with the Heimlich maneuver (abdominal thrusts). If the food is not dislodged, death can occur.
The Dechoker device was designed to be an additional first-aid option for use in children and adults. The device uses suction to dislodge the trapped object and, in many cases, clears the airway within seconds.
Aspiration is similar to choking in that the food or drink gets into the windpipe where it doesn’t belong. The difference is that instead of coughing the food or drink up, it goes down into the lungs where it can cause more serious problems. Once in the lungs, this can lead to inflammation, reactive airways, or pneumonia. Pneumonia is a serious infection that can be life-threatening.
Talk to your doctor to better understand the risks and complications of dysphagia.
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