Dysphagia happens when there are problems with the swallowing process. Oropharyngeal dysphagia occurs when there are problems with the swallowing process that happen in the mouth and the pharynx. The pharynx is the part of the throat behind the mouth
Oropharyngeal dysphagia may be caused by:
- Neuromuscular disorders such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and Huntington chorea
- Neurological damage such as brain or spinal cord injury
- Tumors in the mouth or throat
- Pouches in the pharynx such as Zenker's diverticulum
- Infection such as pharyngitis, tonsillitis, strep throat, or acute epiglottitis
- Enlarged thyroid
- Enlarged tonsil
Risk factors include:
- Having a neurological condition
- Muscle disease
- Increased age
- Being born prematurely
- Cancer treatment
- Throat and neck infections
- Difficulty starting the swallowing process to move food or liquid from the mouth to the pharynx—liquid may be harder to swallow than food
- A sensation that food is stuck in the throat
- Drooling, coughing, choking
- Weight loss, malnutrition, and dehydration due to problems with eating and drinking
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests will be done to assess your swallowing function. These may include:
- Swallowing test to observe what happens when you swallow
- Videofluorographic swallowing study (VFSS)
Your throat may need to be viewed. This can be done with:
Your esophageal muscles may be tested. This can be done with an esophageal manometry test.
You and your doctor will work together to find a treatment that is right for you. Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the condition. You may need to work with a specialist. The specialist can teach you how to improve your swallowing. There are exercises and techniques that you can learn. Your doctor may also recommend that you make changes to your diet. For example, you may need to eat food and liquid of a certain kind of consistency.
You can reduce your risk of oropharyngeal dysphagia by getting proper treatment for any related conditions.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 05/2016 -
- Update Date: 05/21/2014 -