• Overview - Swallowing Disorders

    Timothy D. Anderson, MD, evaluating a patient’s swallowing capabilitiesSwallowing is a complex and well-orchestrated process that requires the utilization of more than 35 muscles to complete a single swallow. The human body is so well adapted to this process that it usually takes more than a single injury or subtle disturbance to cause a swallowing problem. However, the consequences of disturbances or breakdowns in the process can be severe. Swallowing disorders (dysphagia) have a variety of underlying causes including stroke; neurological disease, such as multiple sclerosis and ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease); head and neck cancers; or the side effects of surgery, chemotherapy or radiation used to treat head and neck cancers. Less common (but also less serious) disorders may also lead to swallowing problems.

    Serious complications can result from swallowing disorders. Among them are dehydration and aspiration pneumonia, caused when food goes down the windpipe instead of the esophagus. Promptly undergoing a diagnostic swallowing test and effective treatment is critical. 
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