Published online Oct 14, 2017. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v23.i38.6942
Peer-review started: February 8, 2017
First decision: April 21, 2017
Revised: August 29, 2017
Accepted: September 26, 2017
Article in press: September 26, 2017
Published online: October 14, 2017
Dysphagia is a common symptom that is important to recognise and appropriately manage, given that causes include life threatening oesophageal neoplasia, oropharyngeal dysfunction, the risk of aspiration, as well as chronic disabling gastroesophageal reflux (GORD). The predominant causes of dysphagia varies between cohorts depending on the interplay between genetic predisposition and environmental risk factors, and is changing with time. Currently in white Caucasian societies adopting a western lifestyle, obesity is common and thus associated gastroesophageal reflux disease is increasingly diagnosed. Similarly, food allergies are increasing in the west, and eosinophilic oesophagitis is increasingly found as a cause. Other regions where cigarette smoking is still prevalent, or where access to medical care and antisecretory agents such as proton pump inhibitors are less available, benign oesophageal peptic strictures, Barrett’s oesophagus, adeno- as well as squamous cell carcinoma are endemic. The evaluation should consider the severity of symptoms, as well as the pre-test probability of a given condition. In young white Caucasian males who are atopic or describe heartburn, eosinophilic esophagitis and gastroesophageal reflux disease will predominate and a proton pump inhibitor could be commenced prior to further investigation. Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy remains a valid first line investigation for patients with suspected oesophageal dysphagia. Barium swallow is particularly useful for oropharyngeal dysphagia, and oesophageal manometry mandatory to diagnose motility disorders.
Core tip: Dysphagia may represent serious and life-threatening pathology such as oesophageal neoplasia or oropharyngeal dysfunction capable of causing aspiration. In young white Caucasian males, eosinophilic esophagitis and gastroesophageal reflux disease are predominant causes, and a trial of proton pump inhibitor is suggested whilst awaiting endoscopy.