Oropharyngeal Dysphagia



This problem may be caused by:

  • Stroke
  • Parkinson disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Huntington disease
  • Brain or spinal cord injury
  • Tumors in the mouth or throat
  • Infection, such as tonsillitis, strep throat, or epiglottitis
  • A narrowing or blockage

Risk Factors

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

  • Having any of the problems listed above
  • Premature birth
  • Cancer treatment



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


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:

  • An upper GI endoscopy —a scope is used to look at the structures from the back of the throat to the stomach
  • A barium swallow



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.


There are no known methods to prevent this health problem.

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.