Oropharyngeal Dysphagia

(Dysphagia, Oropharyngeal; Difficulty Swallowing [Mouth or Pharynx])
  • Definition

    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
    Mouth and Throat
    Dry Mouth and Throat
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  • Causes

    Oropharyngeal dysphagia may be caused by:
  • Risk Factors

    Risk factors include:
    • Having a neurological condition
    • Increased age
    • Being born prematurely
    • Cancer
    • Cancer treatment
    • Throat and neck infections
  • Symptoms

    Symptoms include:
    • 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
    • Regurgitation
    • Drooling, coughing, choking
    • Weight loss, malnutrition, and dehydration due to problems with eating and drinking
  • Diagnosis

    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.
  • Treatment

    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.
  • Prevention

    You can reduce your risk of oropharyngeal dysphagia by getting proper treatment for any related conditions.

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

    Dysphagia Research Society http://www.dysphagiaresearch.org


    Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada http://ww2.heartandstroke.ca

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


    Communication facts: special populations: dysphagia—2008 edition. American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: http://www.asha.org/Research/reports/dysphagia/ . Published 2008. Accessed August 13, 2013.

    Dysphagia. Cedars-Sinai website. Available at: http://www.cedars-sinai.edu/Patients/Health-Conditions/Dysphagia.aspx . Accessed August 13, 2013.

    Dysphagia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/ . Updated August 2, 2013. Accessed August 13, 2013.

    Dysphagia. World Gastroenterology Organisation website. Available at: http://www.worldgastroenterology.org/assets/downloads/en/pdf/guidelines/08%5Fdysphagia.pdf . Published 2007. Accessed August 13, 2013.

    Huckabee M. Application of EMG biofeedback in the treatment of oral pharyngeal dysphagia. Biofeedback Foundation of Europe website. Available at: http://www.bfe.org/protocol/pro06eng.htm . Published 1997. Accessed August 13, 2013.

    Restive D, Marchese-Ragona R, Lauria G, Squatrito S, Gullo D, Vigneri R. Botulinum toxin treatment for oropharyngeal dysphagia associated with diabetic neuropathy. Diabetes Care. 2006 Dec;29(12):2650-3. Available at: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/29/12/2650.short . Accessed August 13, 2013.

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