Swallowing Disorders

Problems may occur at any stage of the swallow process (ie. oral, pharyngeal or oesophageal).

Aspiration is when food or fluid enters the airway and passes below the level of the vocal cords causing the person to cough (NB: Silent aspiration occurs when the patient does not cough).


Symptoms of swallowing disorders may include any of the following:

  • drooling of food, fluid or saliva
  • difficulty chewing or manipulating bolus
  • pooling of food in the mouth
  • difficulty starting a swallow
  • food / fluid coming out of the nose
  • coughing / choking when eating/drinking
  • gurgly or “wet” sounding voice during or after a meal
  • shortness of breath during meals
  • needing to swallow multiple times for food to go down
  • person complaining of food getting stuck or pain on swallowing
  • taking longer to eat a meal
  • weight loss
  • Inability to burp (retrograde cricopharyngeal dysfunction)