Dysphagia happens when there are problems with the swallowing process. There are two main types:
- Oropharyngeal dysphagia—swallowing problems happen in the mouth and the pharynx (the part of the throat behind the mouth)
- Esophageal dysphagia —swallowing problems happen in the esophagus (the tube that transports food from the throat to the stomach)
This article focuses on oropharyngeal dysphagia.
Oropharyngeal dysphagia may be caused by:
Risk factors 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
- Drooling, coughing, choking
- Weight loss, malnutrition, and dehydration (due to problems with eating and drinking)
The doctor will:
- Ask about your symptoms.
- Take your medical history.
- Do a physical exam.
Tests may include:
- Swallow test to observe what happens when you swallow
- Videofluorographic swallowing study (VFSS)—an imaging test that involves swallowing food mixed with barium solution (It allows the doctor to watch the swallowing process on a monitor.)
- Laryngoscopy —a test to examine the upper part of the throat
- Barium swallow —an imaging test that involves swallowing a barium solution and having x-rays taken of the esophagus
- Esophageal manometry—a test to measure the functioning of the esophageal muscles
You and your doctor will work together to find a treatment that is right for you. 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.
- Reviewer: Daus Mahnke, MD
- Review Date: 10/2011 -
- Update Date: 11/03/2011 -