Oropharyngeal Dysphagia

Overview

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:

  • Neuromuscular disorders such as stroke, Parkinson 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

Risk factors include:

  • Having a neurological condition
  • Muscle disease
  • Increased age
  • Being born prematurely
  • Cancer
  • Cancer treatment
  • Throat and neck infections

SymptomsandDiagnosis

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

You will be asked 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:

  • Laryngoscopy
  • Barium swallow

Your esophageal muscles may be tested. This can be done with an esophageal manometry test.

Treatments

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.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.

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

RESOURCES

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

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

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada http://www.heartandstroke.com 

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

References

Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia) in Adults. American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: http://www.asha.org/public/speech/swallowing/Swallowing-Disorders-in-Adults/. Accessed May 3, 2016.

Dysphagia. Cedars-Sinai website. Available at: http://www.cedars-sinai.edu/Patients/Health-Conditions/Dysphagia.aspx. Accessed May 3, 2016.

Dysphagia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/. Updated April 2, 2015. Accessed May 3, 2016.

Dysphagia. World Gastroenterology Organisation website. Available at: http://www.worldgastroenterology.org/assets/downloads/en/pdf/guidelines/08%5Fdysphagia.pdf. Published 2007. Accessed May 3, 2016.

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 May 3, 2016.

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 May 3, 2016.