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Understanding Dysphagia 

What is dysphagia?

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Dysphagia refers to experiencing challenges during the swallowing process where one cannot safely and effectively move food from the mouth to the stomach, leading to inadequate intake of nutrients and fluids. Patients may encounter difficulties while eating, swallowing saliva, or taking medication.


Dysphagia can be caused by various types of illnesses. Generally, swallowing difficulties arise from damaged muscles or nerves that control swallowing.

Common causes



Parkinson's disease




Nasopharyngeal cancer  


Brain injury  


Gastroesophageal reflux  


Side effects after surgery and treatment



The main symptoms of dysphagia occur during eating, for example:   

  • odynophagia (pain when swallowing)

  • need multiple attempts to swallow food

  • food residue remains in the mouth, causing halitosis (bad breath) 

  • food or drinks flowing out of the mouth

  • sensation of food stuck in the oesophagus or throat

  • require more time and effort to chew or swallow

  • coughing, wheezing, throat clearing, or excessive phlegm

  • hoarse voice after swallowing

Apart from these, other symptoms may also appear in daily life, for example:   

  • recurrent pneumonia (persistent low-grade fever <38°C or unstable body temperature) 

  • regular drooling due to weakened control of mouth muscles, resulting in unclear speech

  • tongue atrophy with restricted range of movement

  • tense and rigid muscles around the jaw, leading to clenched teeth

  • breathing difficulties

  • nasopharyngeal reflux

  • weak cough

  • cavities or oral inflammation

  • decreased appetite or refusal to eat

  • malnutrition, weight loss, and dehydration


Diagnostic Methods  

If the above-mentioned symptoms appear while eating, it is recommended to promptly schedule an appointment with a speech therapist or relevant healthcare professional for further examination and early treatment. 


The speech therapist will assess the patient, including reviewing their medical history and symptoms. The therapist will also observe the patient consuming foods or drinks of different thicknesses, checking for signs of dysphagia, assessing the functionality of the swallowing muscles, and observing the patient's posture while eating. 


Doctors or therapists may also conduct medical tests as needed, such as a barium swallow study (where the patient consumes barium-infused substances and the swallowing process is observed using X-ray imaging), endoscopic examination, oesophageal pressure testing, etc., to check for dysphagia. 


Solution provided by Care Food:   

Care Food is a diet designed for individuals with chewing and swallowing difficulties. Through various cooking and processing methods, the texture and firmness of the food are adjusted, creating different meal options to cater to the needs of individuals with varying degrees of swallowing challenges. 



1. The Swallowing Research Laboratory of the University of Hong Kong, "How Much Do You Know About Safe Swallowing".

2. Elderly Health Service Website, Department of Health, Hong Kong.


Note: If you have any questions, please consult a speech therapist or healthcare professional first. 

When preparing Care Food, patients should follow the instructions provided by healthcare professionals.


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