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Functional dysphagia

Dysphagia is another term for swallowing difficulties. There are many different types of dysphagia, including functional dysphagia. Functional dysphagia occurs when there is a sensation of foods and liquids getting stuck or passing abnormally through the oesophagus (food pipe), although there may not be a physical problem.

The Kids Feeding Team will work closely with a dysphagia trained speech and language therapist in order to diagnose and treat functional dysphagia.

What is functional dysphagia?

Functional dysphagia occurs when there is a sensation of foods and liquids sticking, lodging or passing abnormally through the oesophagus (windpipe). The term functional dysphagia is used when people have this experience but no organic cause for dysphagia can be found.

The Kids Feeding Team will work hard to ensure that these difficulties are minimised or reduced in order to help achieve a safe and effective swallow. We are able to assess, treat and monitor functional dysphagia and advise on how best to support your child's needs.

What causes functional dysphagia?

Functional dysphagia can occur at any age. Children can be born with functional dysphagia or it can occur at any point through later childhood development. It is rare that children are born with functional dysphagia and it is most likely that this type of dysphagia is develops as the child gets older.

The causes of functional dysphagia are unknown. There is no physical cause to this sensation. It may be predicted that functional dysphagia has psychological, emotional or neurological relations.

The Kids Feeding Team will work hard to assess the causes of functional dysphagia in each child in order to gain more understanding of the nature of your child&rsqauo;s problems. By identifying the underlying cause of the functional dysphagia our multidisciplinary team of experts will be able to decide how best to help.

Jada smiling

What problems caused by functional dysphagia can we help with?

Children that experience functional dysphagia may have the following problems that our team of dieticians, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists and physiotherapists can help minimise and support:

How can the Kids Feeding Team help a child with functional dysphagia?

The Kids Feeding Team will be able to provide many benefits to a child that experiences functional dysphagia. If left untreated functional dysphagia can potentially cause malnutrition, dehydration and pneumonia from aspiration. These side effects can cause many other complications, potentially life-threatening which our team can prevent. Through careful assessment and bespoke treatment options, we would aim to:

Jada with bottle sitting on Saffron's Lap

We make every effort to help and support for continued oral feeding as we know this is the preferred method. However, on occasions there may be indication for tube feeding if it is unsafe for a child to be fed orally. On most occasions, after being tube fed a child will be able to return to oral feeding once it is safe to do so. Children with functional dysphagia are the most unlikely to be tube fed and problems should be minimised before tube feeding is necessary.

What would treatment for functional dysphagia involve?

Our multidisciplinary Kids Feeding Team will use various treatment options to support a child with functional dysphagia, this might include one or a number of:

Jada with bottle sitting on Saffron's Lap

How do I arrange an assessment for functional dysphagia?

If you would like to know more about the services we offer for functional dysphagia or to arrange an assessment with a member of our multidisciplinary Kids Feeding Team, do not hesitate to email or call 0161 820 8262.


Functional dysphagia occurs when there is a sensation of food and drink getting stuck or passing through the windpipe abnormally, despite their being no organic cause to this feeling. Functional dysphagia can occur at any time but children will most likely develop functional dysphagia due to potential psychological, emotional or neurological conditions. The Kids Feeding Team are able to identify the root cause of the functional swallowing problems and can help ensure a safe and effective swallow through different therapeutic strategies.

If you or your child experience any difficulties with swallowing and feel that you would benefit from seeing our Kids Feeding Team, email or call 0161 820 8262.

Make a referral

To refer a child to our services this can be done online, or by calling 0161 820 8262 or emailing office@kids

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