Dysphagia is the medical term for the symptom of difficulty in swallowing. It derives from the Greek “dys” meaning bad or disordered, and “phago” meaning “eat.” 

A swallow occurs in three phases: the oral phase, the pharyngeal phase, and the esophageal phase. Swallowing difficulty can happen in 1, 2 or all 3 of those phases. Dysphagia affects between 15-18 million people in the USA which results in aspiration pneumonia as the 4th leading cause of death in the USA. 

Ten million Americans are evaluated each year for swallowing. However, because dysphagia cuts across so many diseases it is poorly understood and often under-diagnosed. Silent aspiration occurs in 40-67% of the patients with dysphagia. One out of 17 people will eventually develop dysphagia.