Swallowing disorders (dysphagia) comprise a common cause of medical consultation and are defined as a subjective sensation of difficulty or abnormality of swallowing. In the initial step, a clear differentiation of dysphagia from odynophagia and globus sensation for further diagnostic procedures is mandatory. The careful questioning of patients symptoms and complaints is often helpful for the differentiation of oropharyngeal and esophageal dysphagia. Oropharyngeal dysphagia is mainly caused by neurological disorders (cerebral ischemia, Parkinson's disease, dementia) or local compression of malignancies, thyroid gland or lymph nodes. In contrast, stenosis of the tubular esophagus (peptic stricture, rings and webs, diverticula, malignancies, infections) can lead to esophageal dysphagia, mostly only after ingestion of solids. Esophageal dysphagia after ingestion of solids and liquids is often caused by motility disorders of the esophagus (achalasia, hypertensive or hypercontractile esophagus). Important diagnostic procedures comprise endoscopy, barium swallow and high-resolution manometry. Overlap syndromes are frequent and need to be supervised interdisciplinary. The diagnostic algorithm and interpretation of exam results is complex. If the results are ambiguous, a reevaluation and, when appropriate, repetition of diagnostics are recommended. Whereas oropharyngeal dysphagia is treated by neurologists or ENT physicians, diagnostic and treatment of esophageal dysphagia is a challenging role for gastroenterologists.
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