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Dysphagia and safe swallowing

Difficulties in swallowing are a common, under-recognised problem and require referral, explains Linda Nazarko.

The term dysphagia comes from the Latin 'dys', meaning difficulty, and the Greek 'phagia', meaning eat or swallow. Dysphagia literally means difficulty eating or swallowing.

The normal swallow has four phases (see Table 1) and is dependent on an intact motor and nervous system.1

Dysphagia is a common problem that affects around 11% of adults living in the community.2 It is more common in older people, those who have had a stroke or people with a neurological condition.3

Around 40–70% of stroke survivors, 60–80% of people with a neurological condition, 13% of older people and 51% of frail older people in care homes have swallowing difficulties.3,4

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