Speech Pathology Articles

How does Parkinson’s Disease impact swallowing?

Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive neurological condition impacting approximately 70,000 Australians. The underlying cause of Parkinson’s symptoms relates to a decline in the production of a brain chemical called dopamine. This condition can impact many areas of a person’s life, including the ability to swallow safely.

Parkinson’s Disease may impact the muscles involved in swallowing, which can result in:

  • Drooling
  • Difficulties chewing
  • Difficulties keeping food/fluid contained within the mouth due to poor lip seal
  • Difficulties initiating a swallow
  • Reduced airway protection during swallowing which can result in aspiration (food/fluid entering the airway or ‘going down the wrong way’) and/or aspiration pneumonia (infection of the lung due to aspirated materials)
  • Difficulties taking medications
  • Anxiety around eating / drinking
  • Weight loss and poor nutrition

In aged care settings, staff training is important in identifying symptoms of dysphagia. Early identification of dysphagia allows for timely referrals to speech pathology to ensure appropriate dysphagia management plans are in place, which can reduce the risk of aspiration and/or aspiration pneumonia. Timely referrals not only encourage safe swallowing, but can also improve quality of life for residents with Parkinson’s Disease.

For more information about how Parkinson’s Disease may impact swallowing and how our speech pathology team can help, please contact us on 1300 952 433 or click here