Prevalence of dysphagia

The exact prevalence of dysphagia is unknown. However, the World Gastroenterology Organisation (WGO) stated that one in 17 people will develop some form of dysphagia in their lifetime27 citing a 2011 study in the UK that reported a prevalence rate of 11% for dysphagia in the general community54. The WGO also estimated that dysphagia affects 40–70% of patients with stroke, 60–80% of patients with neurodegenerative diseases, up to 13% of adults aged 65 and older and > 51% of institutionalized elderly patients, as well as 60–75% of patients who undergo radiotherapy for head and neck cancer.

These estimates are thought to vary due to inconsistent methods of assessing swallowing function, different timings of swallowing assessment after stroke, and variations in the number and type of stroke patients studied12.

It is possible that prevalence may be greater than the published figures as some patients may not acknowledge their symptoms or dysphagia may be seen as an inevitable consequence of old age13 14.

We do know however, that in 2014-15, there were 38,921 admissions to UK hospitals with a primary diagnosis of dysphagia, accounting for 43,888 bed days15.