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What causes dysphagia?
Swallowing involves three stages.
These three stages are controlled by nerves that connect the digestive tract to your child's brain.
Swallowing disorders occur when one or more of these stages fail to take place properly.
Children's health problems that can affect swallowing include:
cleft lip or cleft palate
dental problems (teeth that do not meet properly, such as with an overbite)
diseases that affect the nerves and muscles, such as a stroke, tumor, nerve injury, brain injury, or muscular dystrophy, and can cause paralysis or poor function of the tongue or the muscles in the throat and esophagus
tumors or masses in the throat
problems with the prenatal development of the bones of the skull and the structures in the mouth and throat (known as craniofacial anomalies)
prenatal malformations of the digestive tract, such as esophageal atresia or tracheoesophageal fistula
oral sensitivity that can occur in very ill children who have been on a ventilator for a prolonged period of time
irritation of the vocal cords after being on a ventilator for long periods of time (as may occur with premature babies or very ill children)
paralysis of the vocal cords
having a tracheostomy (artificial opening in the throat for breathing)
irritation or scarring of the esophagus or vocal cords by acid in gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
compression of the esophagus by other body parts, such as the heart, thyroid gland, blood vessels, or lymph nodes
foreign bodies in the esophagus, such as a swallowed coin
Why is dysphagia a concern?
Dysphagia can result in aspiration which occurs when food or liquids go into the windpipe and lungs. Aspiration of food and liquids may cause pneumonia and/or other serious lung conditions.
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”