Oropharyngeal Dysphagia



Oropharyngeal dysphagia 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 oropharyngeal dysphagia are:

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



A person with oropharyngeal dysphagia may have:

  • Trouble 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


The doctor will ask about 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 checked. 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 of oropharyngeal dysphagia will need to be treated. Therapy may be needed to learn exercises and ways to help with swallowing. Diet changes may also be needed, such as eating softer foods.


Oropharyngeal dysphagia cannot be prevented.

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.