Patient Handout: Understanding Dysphagia

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Dysphagia is the medical term for difficulty swallowing, which can cause malnutrition, dehydration, aspiration, decrease in quality of life and cause aspiration pneumonia. Swallowing is a complex event that involves four phases and the timing and coordination of multiple systems. The four stages include oral preparatory, oral, pharyngeal and esophageal phases. A breakdown in any part of the phases or systems involved such as the brain, cranial nerves, oral or pharyngeal cavity or the esophagus can cause dysphagia.

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