Who Gets Dysphagia?

By now, if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably already familiar with dysphagia. Dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, is a symptom that can be caused by a number of conditions. SwallowSTRONG is an innovative therapy device that helps people strengthen the muscles involved in swallowing. But why might people need this kind of therapy? Who does dysphagia affect?

Really, dysphagia is much more prevalent than you might think. We could discuss the raw numbers, for example: dysphagia impacts as many as 15 million Americans (about as many as the combined populations of New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago), but instead this post will focus on conditions that can lead to dysphagia, and how prevalent those conditions are. The following list is by no means all-encompassing. Dysphagia can occur without one of the conditions listed below being present. This list is simply to illustrate who might be at risk, and to show the varied conditions that can lead to difficulty swallowing.

1. Parkinson’s Disease. According to the National Parkinson Foundation, Parkinson’s Disease affects 1 million people in the U.S. alone.

2. Multiple Sclerosis. The National MS Society estimates MS prevalence at about 400,000 people in the U.S.

3. Stroke. The Centers for Disease Control reports that every year, more than 795,000 people suffer a stroke. Of that number, about 610,000 are people who have never had a stroke before.

4. Traumatic Brain Injury. A CDC fact sheet says that each year, 275,000 people are hospitalized due to a traumatic brain injury.

5. Head and Neck Cancer. Cancer.net estimates that almost 60,000 people will be diagnosed with head and neck cancer this year.

There are many other conditions that may put people at risk for suffering with dysphagia. 

Sarcopenia, or muscle loss as a result of aging, is extremely common among the elderly. This can lead to a condition called presbyphagia, or swallowing difficulty in otherwise healthy older adults.

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