Do You Have a Swallowing Problem? How a Professional Can Help.

Swallowing Problems with Parkinson Disease (PD).

Just as the movement of limbs can be affected by PD, so can the movement and safety of the swallowing mechanism. What’s tricky about swallowing is people with PD don’t always feel or sense the swallowing deficits their PD may be causing. The good news is that with knowing the warning signs, having the right diagnostics, skilled services, and using exercise as medicine the effects of swallowing deficits can be managed and even improved!  Read on to learn more about how swallowing problems are defined and what can be done to identify and treat swallowing difficulties.

Do You Have a Swallowing Problem?

Swallowing difficulties limit what you eat and drink, can keep you from going out to dinner, and diminish the joy of socialization that often surrounds mealtime. You might have a swallowing problem and not even know it. You may not realize your swallowing is weak or infrequent.  Some signs and symptoms of swallowing changes are highlighted below.

Signs of a swallowing problem may include:

  • Choking
  • Frequent coughing
  • Throat clearing
  • Wet-sounding voice
  • More effort to swallow
  • Pain with swallowing
  • Drooling or leaking liquids or food out of your mouth
  • Food “getting stuck” on the way down.

Also, swallowing difficulties are not necessarily associated with severity of your PD, so we advise you to seek out a professional to assess your swallowing difficulties as early as possible, and have them follow you closely during your life with PD.

How a Professional Can Help?

Your speech-language pathologist can tell you whether you have swallowing problems and can suggest ways to help you swallow safely and even treat your swallowing problems.

Treatment options may include:

  • Muscle-strengthening exercises to improve your ability to control food in your mouth, chew efficiently, and strengthen your throat muscles
  • Strengthening exercises to improve your cough (very important for protecting against food “going down the wrong way”)
  • Advice on what types of food to eat and liquids to drink
  • Determine correct head postures to help you swallow most efficiently and have a safer swallow
  • And many other active treatments

Can LSVT LOUD Help with Swallowing Problems?

You’ll also be interested to know that LSVT LOUD may have beneficial effects not only on speech and voice but also in improving swallowing.  We think this is due to the fact that swallowing and speech use the same muscles, and they share neurological structures that are negatively impacted by your disease.  However, research data on LSVT LOUD and its impact on swallowing has a small sample size and was not a part of a randomized control trial.  Thus, we do not claim that LSVT LOUD treats swallowing disorders. Evidence-based swallowing approaches that have been published in the literature are recommended as the primary course of treatment for swallowing disorders.

What to do if You Think You Need Help

We encourage you to reach out to a speech-language pathologist who has expertise or advanced training in Parkinson disease, such as LSVT LOUD Certified Clinicians. This additional expertise in the consequences of PD on speech/voice and feeding/swallowing, may help you improve both areas of your life.

While it may be scary at first to think about how PD can impact your ability to swallow and eat/drink, knowledge is power.  Being aware of potential changes and seeking treatment early is KEY to successfully managing swallowing across the course of PD.  It is possible to maintain good quality of life with PD for many, many years.