Which clinical history findings are characteristic of dysphagia?

Updated: Mar 20, 2020
  • Author: Nam-Jong Paik, MD, PhD; Chief Editor: Elizabeth A Moberg-Wolff, MD  more...
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Answer

Disorders leading to dysphagia may affect the oral, pharyngeal, or esophageal phases of swallowing. Thorough history taking and careful physical examination are important in the diagnosis and treatment of dysphagia. The bedside physical examination should include examination of the neck, mouth, oropharynx, and larynx. A neurologic examination also should be performed.

Specific questions about the onset, duration, and severity of dysphagia and about a variety of associated symptoms may help to narrow the differential diagnosis. Review the patient's general health information, including long-term illnesses and current prescription medications.

Patients who have dysphagia may present with a variety of signs and symptoms. They usually report coughing or choking or the abnormal sensation of food sticking in the back of the throat or upper chest when they are trying to swallow; however, some of these presentations can be quite subtle or even absent (eg, in patients with silent aspiration). [35, 36, 37]


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