Noticing This When Swallowing Could Be An Early Sign Of Dementia

<span class="copyright">Ekaterina Vasileva-Bagler via Getty Images</span>
Ekaterina Vasileva-Bagler via Getty Images

We’ve written before at HuffPost UK about how everything from brushing your teeth to eating your dinner can reveal early signs of dementia.

The condition often goes unnoticed in its early stages, which is unfortunate as an early diagnosis “an accurate early, or timely, diagnosis of dementia can have many benefits” (per NHS 111 Wales).

So it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for early symptoms ― including, it turns out, how a person swallows.

How does dementia affect swallowing?

Speaking to The Express, Dr Ahmad Khundakar, a senior lecturer in biomedical science at Teesside University, said that “one unusual physical sign of dementia is dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing.

“It occurs due to damage to brain regions responsible for movement and coordination, including those controlling the swallowing reflex,” the doctor shared, adding that “those living with dementia may experience muscle weakness, coordination problems, and reduced throat sensation, leading to difficulties in swallowing.”

A 2008 US study found that “it is estimated that 45% of institutionalised dementia patients have dysphagia.”

And the NHS East Sussex Healthcare Trust says that “it is very common for individuals with dementia to have difficulties with eating, drinking and swallowing... Things are likely to get worse as the dementia progresses.”

What are the signs of dysphagia? 

Per the NHS, the signs that you or someone else may have trouble swallowing include:

  • Poor lip closure and/or drooling of saliva, food or drinks

  • Taking a long time to chew food

  • Pouching food in the cheeks

  • Continual chewing without swallowing

  • A delayed swallow

  • Coughing or throat clearing when eating or drinking

  • A wet sounding voice when eating or drinking

  • Repeated chest infections

  • Weight loss

  • Not wanting to eat or drink.

If you suspect you or a loved one may have dementia, contact your GP ASAP.

After all, “although at present there’s no cure for dementia, there are ways you can slow it down and maintain mental function if it’s diagnosed in the early stages,” the NHS says.