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Dysphagia Awareness

Dysphagia Cover Image
old lady


Difficulty swallowing food or drink may be dysphagia. Dysphagia can impact health and wellbeing so it’s important to spot the signs. Older people and those with conditions such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, dementia, head and neck cancer or a history of stroke, may have extra difficulty swallowing.

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six symptoms of dysfafia

What is dysphagia?

Two main problems can occur with dysphagia.

  1. Difficulty chewing or preparing food/drink for a swallow, and directing it to the back of the mouth
  2. Difficulty starting the swallow and passing food from the mouth to the stomach

What to watch out for

  • Someone who has swallowing problems may feel alone or avoid mealtimes with family or in social situations
  • They might also not talk about the problem with family, friends or a healthcare professional.
  • As a result, dysphagia may go unrecognised and undiagnosed and might not be treated properly.

Causes of dysphagia

  • Advancing age
  • Conditions such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, dementia, multiple sclerosis, stroke and head and neck cancer
  • Trauma to the head or spinal cord
  • Tumours
  • Tracheostomy


Almost 14% of the population over the age 50 have clinical signs of dysphagia and 1 in 17 people will develop some form of dysphagia in their lifetime(1,2)

Dysphagia affects:

  • Up to 80% of people with Parkinson’s disease(3)
  • ~50% of people e with head and neck cancer(4)
  • ~50% of people with acute stroke(5)

Difficulty swallowing can impact health and wellbeing

  • Swallowing difficulty can mean food, drink and bacteria enter the lungs, leading to infections and recurring fever, known as aspiration pneumonia.
  • Discomfort when swallowing drinks might mean insufficient fluids are consumed, potentially leading to dehydration.
  • Reduced food intake can lead to weight loss, malnutrition and decreased energy.

Swallowing difficulties can often go undetected

Learn more and spot the signs