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Acta Otorhinolaryngol Ital. 2007 Apr;27(2):83-6.

Social importance of dysphagia: its impact on diagnosis and therapy.

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Department of Clinical Pathophysiology, University of Turin, Turin, Italy.


Until now, a limited number of studies have been carried out on the social importance of dysphagia and its consequences on the quality of life. Dysphagia is considered a disabling disorder for the individual from the functional point of view of swallowing, as well as the emotional-relational viewpoint. Aim of the study was to detect both the social consequences and the emotional implications which lead the dysphagic patient to evaluate the worsening of the quality of life after the onset of the disorder and how speech therapy can improve it. A survey was carried out on 73 patients, aged between 40-80 years, who had undergone one of the following operations: ENT, maxillo-facial, neurological and presbiphagic. A questionnaire was prepared comprising 25 questions concerning: medical history, eating habits, personal feelings, information about dysphagia and state of health. Research was carried out on a sample of patients who were still actively working and enjoyed an intense social life; almost 50% were under 60 years of age. After the surgical operation, they were found to be more fragile, lacked self-confidence, with limited social relationships and consequently, a tendency to isolation. Most patients, who had previously considered mealtimes an opportunity to meet others and a social gathering, no longer believed them to be a pleasant aspect of their day on account of the difficulty in swallowing. As a result, food consistency had to be changed and strategies had to be invented in order to make the meal less embarrassing. All patients agree they received, initially, little information on dysphagia. They maintain they benefited from speech therapy re-education and placed their confidence in the doctors who were treating them. Dysphagia is a disorder which has a negative influence on the patient's life, worsening it qualitatively from both a social and an emotional point of view. The patient tends to isolate him/herself, and experiences a sense of discomfort and diversity compared to his/her fellows, leading to a decrease in self-esteem. Research shows that patients are duly informed by doctors and health care professionals concerning the problems related to dysphagia and the rehabilitation therapy to be followed. Patients feel more safeguarded and there is an overall improvement in their lives.

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