Dysphagia, or problems swallowing, can occur in people with superficial siderosis. While more likely to occur during the mid-late stage of progression, it may occur at any time. This is because the mechanics of chewing and swallowing need multiple muscles in the mouth and throat to work together. In SS, when the nerves that control these muscles become damaged, muscle weakness and incoordination bring swallowing problems.
Common Swallow Problems
- difficulty managing solids or liquids
- throat clearing while eating or drinking
- sensation your food is stuck in the throat
- coughing or a choking sensation when eating or drinking
- dry mouth from prescription medications
- regurgitation or reflux
A speech/language pathologist is the specialist who will diagnose and treat dysphagia. Treatment may include strategies for safe eating and swallowing, diet modification, exercises, and stimulation designed to improve swallowing.
The initial diagnosis of dysphagia should include a review of the patients’ history and a thorough neurologic examination of the tongue and swallowing muscles. An imaging procedure called Modified Barium Swallow can evaluate a person’s ability to chew and swallow both solid and liquid. During this test, the person eats and drinks a small quantity of barium, which makes the structures of the mouth, throat, and esophagus visible on the x-ray. The movement of these structures is recorded on videotape by a videofluoroscopy as the person eats or drinks foods of varying consistencies — thin liquid, thick liquid, and solid. The precise location and manner of a swallowing defect can then be identified and treatment prescribed.
For a personal in-depth look at the concerns dysphagia presents for superficial siderosis patients and the testing process, please read our article The Danger Of Dysphagia.