Prevalence and risk factors for dysphagia: a USA community study

Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2015 Feb;27(2):212-9. doi: 10.1111/nmo.12467. Epub 2014 Nov 6.


Background: Dysphagia is considered an alarm symptom but detailed population-based data on dysphagia are lacking. We aimed to estimate in a representative USA Caucasian population, the prevalence of dysphagia and potential risk factors.

Methods: A modified version of the previously validated Bowel Disease Questionnaire was mailed to a population-based cohort (n = 7640) of Olmsted County, MN. Dysphagia was measured by one validated question 'In the last year, how often have you had difficulty swallowing (a feeling that food sticks in your throat or chest)?' The medical records were reviewed for organic causes of dysphagia. The associations of reported frequency of dysphagia with potential risk factors were assessed using logistic regression models.

Key results: The sex-specific, age-adjusted (US White 2000) prevalence for dysphagia experienced at least weekly was 3.0% (95% CI: 2.2, 3.7) in females and 3.0% (95% CI: 2.0, 4.0) in males. Those with frequent heartburn (OR = 5.9 [4.0, 8.6]) and acid regurgitation (OR = 10.6 [6.8, 16.6]) were significantly more likely to report frequent dysphagia. Proton pump inhibitor (PPI) use was significantly associated with frequent (3.1, 95% CI 2.2, 4.4) and infrequent dysphagia (1.5, 955 CI 1.3, 1.8). Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) was the most common diagnosis in those reporting dysphagia on the medical record; other organic explanations were rare and only found in the frequent dysphagia group.

Conclusions & inferences: Frequent dysphagia is not rare in the community (3%), occurs in both women and men across all adult age groups, and is most likely to indicate underlying GERD.

Keywords: community studies; dysphagia; epidemiology; prevalence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Deglutition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Minnesota
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology
  • White People