Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) after a stroke

Many people have difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) after having a stroke. If you have dysphagia, you will likely need swallowing tests and an evaluation by a speech therapist.

Problems caused by dysphagia include:

  • Trouble feeling food on one or both sides of your mouth. This increases your risk for choking.
  • Dry mouth from inefficient saliva production.
  • Difficulty with chewing because of weakened muscles.
  • Inappropriate breathing or speaking while trying to swallow.
  • Drooling.
  • Weak throat muscles.
  • Inability to cough.
  • Nasal problems.
  • Impaired breathing.

If you have severe problems with swallowing foods or liquids, you may need a feeding tube placed through the nose or through the abdomen into the stomach. This is usually temporary.

Certain techniques and special devices can make eating easier. They can help prevent choking and breathing in food or liquid (aspiration), which can cause pneumonia. Swallowing problems often improve over time, but some people have challenges coping with dysphagia throughout their life.

Last Updated: June 30, 2009

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