Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) may occur due to stroke, traumatic brain injury, treatment for head and neck cancer, or degenerative diseases such as MS, ALS, or Parkinson's. If untreated, dysphagia can lead to aspiration pneumonia (a type of pneumonia casued by food or liquids getting into the lungs). Symptoms may include coughing or choking while eating, drooling, the sensation that food is gettng stuck in your throat, unexplained weight loss, or recurrent pneumonia.
Treatment varies and depends on the cause of the symptoms. Therapy focuses on strengthening the muscles of the face, mouth, and throat through exercise, occasionally using neuromuscular electrical stimulation (frequently referred to as "VitalStim"). Sometimes, behavioral changes and food texture alterations are necessary. In some cases, your physician may prescribe medication or surgery. The overall goal is to return to eating safely with the least restrictive diet.
Cognitive-linguistic deficits refer to problems with attention, memory, orientation, problem solving, insight, and reasoning. These can affect your ability to communicate effectively. Cognitive-linguistic disorders can occur alone or in combination with other speech-language disorders such as dysarthria, apraxia, or aphasia. This diagnosis is frequently seen in patients with TBI, stroke, concussion, brain tumors, MS, Parkinson's, dementia, and other neurological disorders.
Assessment includes both informal screening and standardized tests such as the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) or the Cognitive-Linguistic Quick Test (CLQT). Treatment focuses on repairing function, developing compensation techniques, and educating patients and family.