Oropharyngeal dysphagia is at term that describes swallowing problems occurring in the mouth and/or the throat. These swallowing problems most commonly result from impaired muscle function, sensory changes, or growths and obstructions in the mouth or throat.
Oropharyngeal dysphagia can have many causes. Some causes may include:
Oropharyngeal dysphagia can commonly result from muscle weakness. Additionally, a person may have reduced ability to feel food, liquid or saliva that remains in the mouth or throat after swallowing. In some cases, an individual may not be able to feel food, liquid or saliva entering the windpipe (called aspiration). Some individuals have problems such as scar tissue or muscle spasm of cricopharyngeus muscle (at the transition between the throat and esophagus) or an abnormal pocket into which food, liquid or saliva can collect (called a diverticulum), that can get in the way of the swallowed material moving through throat and upper esophagus and on to the stomach.
The most common symptoms of oropharyngeal dysphagia are:
Laryngologists and speech pathologists, within the UCLA Swallowing Disorders Program, work closely together to assess and treat oropharyngeal swallowing disorders.
The most commonly used instrumental exams of the oropharyngeal swallow are:
Surgical and behavioral treatment approaches exist to treat oropharyngeal swallowing problems. The treatment recommended will depend on an individual’s particular swallowing problem and what is causing it. We will review your dysphagia history, physical exam, and swallow studies to recommend the optimal management plan. In general, surgery is recommended to treat tissue in the throat or upper esophagus that obstructs the movement of food, liquid and/or saliva through the throat on its way to the stomach. Swallow therapy is a behavioral treatment to strengthen swallow muscles and reduce material going into the windpipe.