Dysphagia is a difficulty or inability to swallow. In some cases of ALS, the first manifestations of the disease appear in the bulbar innervation muscles which severely impairs the patient’s ability to speak and swallow. Even in cases where the onset of ALS occurs along the spinal cord, at some point during the evolution of the disease, the bulbar dysfunction develops.
Dysphagia is a serious side effect as it can pose a clear danger to the patient’s life. In healthy subjects, delicate coordination between respiration and swallowing prevents food from entering the airways. However, ALS patients suffering from dysphagia loose this preventive function and can easily aspirate food into the respiratory tract.