Definition and Symptoms

DefinicionDysphagia is defined as a swallowing disorder characterised by difficulty with oral preparation of the food bolus or in the movement of food from the mouth to the stomach. The disorder includes everything from a delay in or lack of bolus transfer to an error in direction and passage into the airway.

Dysphagia as a symptom may have a functional (normally neurogenic) or mechanical origin, and may also be secondary to iatrogenic factors such as tracheostomy tubes or certain drugs. Logically, neurogenic dysphagia refers to a swallowing disorder that presents in the context of a nervous system injury.

The symptoms caused by dysphagia include: difficulty chewing or preparing the bolus, excessive drooling, choking, cough and changes in voice quality after swallowing, sensation of food obstruction at any level in the alimentary tract, and painful swallowing. These symptoms are more significant when associated with aspiration pneumonia, weight loss, abnormal nutritional status, or a combination of these.