Speech and Swallowing Disorders | Tampa General Hospital

Speech & Swallowing Disorders 

Speech and swallowing disorders impede an individual’s ability to speak or swallow. 

Speech and swallowing disorders hinder someone’s ability to speak and swallow normally. The most common types of speech and swallowing disorders include: 

  • Apraxia of speech (AOS) – A neurological disorder that affects the brain’s ability to properly plan the sequence of movements associated with producing speech. 
  • Dysarthria – A condition that occurs when the muscles involved in producing speech are weak or are difficult to control. 
  • Dysphagia – A swallowing disorder that hinders an individual’s ability to eat and drink. 
  • Odynophagia – A burning or painful sensation while swallowing due to tissue inflammation.

What Causes Speech & Swallowing Disorders? 

Speech and swallowing disorders are most commonly found in patients with: 

  • Strokes 
  • Brain injuries 
  • Birth defects 
  • Neuromuscular disorders such as multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).  

What Symptoms are Associated With Speech & Swallowing Disorders? 

Patients with speech and swallowing disorders can experience various symptoms, depending on the underlying cause of their conditions.  

For instance, patients suffering from speech disorders, either apraxia of speech or dysarthria, may have: 

  • Slowed speech 
  • Trouble pronouncing words 
  • Errors while talking 
  • Altered voice 

Aside from having difficulty swallowing, an individual with a swallowing disorder may experience: 

  • Difficulty keeping food or liquid in the mouth 
  • Poor hydration and overall nutrition, due to his or her inability to get food to the stomach 
  • Coughing during eating or drinking 

How are Speech & Swallowing Disorders Diagnosed? 

Speech disorders can be diagnosed using a combination of a physical examination and speech assessment tools designed to identify trouble with: 

  • Speech performance 
  • Pronunciation 
  • Comprehension 
  • Control over the voice box 
  • Breathing while speaking 

Identifying the presence of a swallowing disorder includes the evaluation of: 

  • The act of swallowing 
  • The patient’s ability to manage his or her saliva 
  • Face, lips and tongue movement 
  • Sensation in the mouth 

Additionally, the use of a modified barium swallowing exam can be helpful in detecting problems with swallowing. 

How Are Speech & Swallowing Disorders Treated? 

The speech pathologists at Tampa General Hospital are committed to providing world-class rehabilitative treatment to patients battling with speech and swallowing disorders. Therapeutic practices intended to treat patients with speech disorders focus on strengthening the muscles associated with speech. Therapy for swallowing disorders is geared toward reducing the possibility of choking and practicing exercises that improve swallowing.