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Definition

Dysphagia is a problem with swallowing. Oropharyngeal dysphagia is a problem that involves the mouth and the pharynx. The pharynx is the part of the throat behind the mouth.

Mouth and Throat
Dry Mouth and Throat

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Causes

This problem may be caused by:

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in older adults. Other things that may raise the risk of this problem are:

Symptoms

Common problems are:

  • Difficulty starting to swallow to move food or liquid from the mouth to the back of the throat—liquid may be harder to swallow than food
  • A feeling that food is stuck in the throat
  • Bringing swallowed food up again to the mouth
  • Drooling
  • Coughing
  • Choking
  • Problems getting enough fluids or nutrition

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

The ability to swallow may be tested. This can be done with:

  • A test to look for problems while a person swallows
  • Tests on the muscles of the esophagus (the tube that goes from the back of the throat to the stomach)

Swallowing structures may need to be viewed. This can be done with:

Treatment

Any underlying causes will need to be treated. Therapy may be needed to learn exercises and techniques to improve swallowing. Dietary changes may also be needed, such as eating softer foods.

Prevention

There are no known methods to prevent this health problem.

RESOURCES:

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
https://www.asha.org

Dysphagia Research Society
https://dysphagiaresearch.site-ym.com

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
https://www.heartandstroke.ca

Ontario Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologist
https://www.osla.on.ca

REFERENCES:

Dysphagia. Cedars-Sinai website. Available at: https://www.cedars-sinai.org/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/d/dyphagia.html. Accessed August 13, 2018.

Dysphagia. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/esophageal-and-swallowing-disorders/dysphagia. Accessed August 20, 2021.

Oropharyngeal dysphagia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/oropharyngeal-dysphagia. Accessed August 20, 2021.

Swallowing disorders in adults. American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: https://www.asha.org/public/speech/swallowing/Swallowing-Disorders-in-Adults. Accessed August 20, 2021.

Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board James Cornell, MD  Last Updated: 8/20/2021