• Resize Text
    • Small Text
    • Medium Text
    • Large Text
    • Connect

Patients most vulnerable to swallowing problems

Understanding patient groups where swallowing difficulties are more prevalent.

Dysphagia describes difficulty in swallowing, often experienced while eating and drinking. This condition can impact individuals across all age groups, including infants, children and adults. People with dysphagia often have concurrent health conditions that can affect their ability to swallow.[1]

In adults, dysphagia can occur because of conditions such as: [1] [2]

  • Neurological disorders such as stroke, dementia, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis
  • Congenital and developmental conditions such as intellectual disabilities or cerebral palsy
  • Muscular disorders such as scleroderma or achalasia
  • Head, neck and throat cancers or other obstructions in the throat or oesophagus
  • Medication side effects, such as some antipsychotic medications.
  • Anxiety or a fear of swallowing


The prevalence of dysphagia varies between the patient groups above.

Among older individuals, swallowing difficulties may be more prevalent due to age-related changes, such as reduced muscle tone and saliva production. In addition, ageing is also associated with medical conditions, some of which are mentioned above, which have the potential to cause dysphagia. Approximately 70-90% of the older population is estimated to experience dysphagia. [1] [3]

For infants, children and younger people, dysphagia can be associated with conditions such as: [1]

  • Premature birth
  • Oncology/tumours
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Intellectual Disabilities
  • Congenital Disorders


Feeding difficulties are thought to occur in 25-45% of the typically developing paediatric population, with the prevalence being higher in the groups mentioned above.[1]

ROS000046-005 DOP August 2023