Dysphagia Awareness Month

On September 27, 2008, the US Congress passed a bipartisan statute which declared June as National Dysphagia Awareness Month. Dysphagia Awareness Month provides an excellent opportunity to raise awareness about what dysphagia is, its symptoms, causes, available treatments, and the roles of the various professionals who can help those with dysphagia.

Among 235 million adults in the United States, approximately 9.4 million reported swallowing problems, only 19.2 % of whom reported receiving treatment or therapy for their swallowing problem. Significant age, racial, gender and socioeconomic disparities exist with respect to the self-reported prevalence and treatment of swallowing problems among adults in the United States. Targeting underlying risk factors for dysphagia must also involve determining strategies to address barriers in access to care. Female gender, older age, lower income level, public insurance status and unemployment were independently associated with increased odds of reporting dysphagia, while also associated with decreased odds of receiving treatment. (i)

Dysphagia is not limited to adults but is also prominent in children with histories of preterm birth, neurologic and neuromuscular diagnoses, developmental delays, and aerodigestive disorders; and is associated with medical, health, and neurodevelopmental problems; and long-term socioeconomic, caregiver, health system, and social burdens. (ii)

Common signs and symptoms of dysphagia include, but are not limited to unintentional weight loss, coughing during or after meals, recurrent lung infections, liquid/food coming out of nose/mouth, liquid/food coming back up into mouth or throat after its been swallowed (regurgitation), avoiding foods once enjoyed, and feeling of food remaining “stuck”. 

Dysphagia is a symptom caused by various diseases/conditions, which in adults, include head and neck cancers, pulmonary conditions (e.g., chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and a variety of acquired neurologic conditions such as stroke, dementia, ALS, and Parkinson’s disease. Unfortunately, swallowing symptoms may develop gradually over time and so dysphagia often goes unnoticed and underreported.

Individuals who have undergone radiation treatment for head and neck cancers, may develop dysphagia many years after that treatment due to radiation fibrosis (scar tissue formation), and if referral to a speech-language pathologist is not part of the early treatment plan, these individuals may miss an opportunity for early intervention which often includes prophylactic swallowing exercises.

If you are having difficulty swallowing, notify your primary care physician or neurologist who will refer you to appropriate professionals which may include GI (gastroenterology); ENT (Ear Nose, and Throat), and Speech-language pathology.

(i) Melissa Zheng, Sheng Zhou, Kevin Hur, Tamara Chambers, Karla O’Dell, Michael Johns, Disparities in the prevalence of self-reported dysphagia and treatment among U.S. adults, American Journal of Otolaryngology, Volume 44, Issue 2,2023,103774,ISSN 0196-0709 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjoto.2022.103774.

(ii) Lefton-Greif, M.A., Arvedson, J.C., Farneti, D. et al. Global State of the Art and Science of Childhood Dysphagia: Similarities and Disparities in Burden. Dysphagia (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00455-024-10683-5

National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders (NFOSD) 

                Our Mission: “Advancing the treatment of swallowing disorders in our lifetime.”

NFOSD is a grassroots organization whose purpose is to provide patient hope and improve quality of life for those suffering from all types of swallowing disorders, by enhancing direct patient support, education, research and raising public, professional, and governmental awareness. They serve as a tremendous resources for professionals and individuals with dysphagia and their families. Please visit their website to learn more about educational opportunities and support groups. https://swallowingdisorderfoundation.com/

Be of Service to Others: lessons from my father

From time to time in a blog post I have talked about my father. I have shared with readers that in his later life, he lived with the symptoms of Parkinsonism. His physical symptoms were a challenge for him and my family, and even though he spent much of his life doing favors for other people, he hated asking for help as his own physical abilities declined. He died in 2001 at the age of 83, having retired just three years earlier as Mayor of the Village of North Randall, Ohio, an elected position he served in for 42years.

My father loved helping other people. My mother thought that at times he was too generous and allowed people to take advantage of him. That may have been true, but I don’t think my father ever saw it that way. He just treated people the way he wanted to be treated, and felt everyone needed a chance. 

My father wasn’t driven too much by making alot of money, and when I realized that I had chosen two professions, nursing and speech-language pathology, that would not earn me huge salaries, I would complain to my father, asking: ” why didn’t you encourage me to go into business?” His answer was always the same: “Mary,” he’d ask: “do you love what you do?” “Well, yes” I would say. “then that’s all that matters,” he would respond.

I miss my dad. The smell of his cologne, His hugs, But most of all, his voice on the other end of the phone. If you’re a dad, Happy Father’s Day. Call your children. Use your loud “AHH” voice, and tell them you love them!




My Mission: To enlist individuals in their treatment, and help them express their personality & spirit through voice. To educate and empower. Mary Spremulli, MA, CCC-SLP * FiTOUR® Group Exercise Instructor * Voice Aerobics® A Whole Body Approach to Voice Practice

Voice Aerobics the heART and Science of Voice Practice