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
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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
- 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
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:
- Barium swallow
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.
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.
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a (Dysphagia, Oropharyngeal; Difficulty Swallowing [Mouth or Pharynx])
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association http://www.asha.org
Dysphagia Research Society http://www.dysphagiaresearch.org
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada http://www.heartandstroke.com
Ontario Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologist https://www.osla.on.ca
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