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Dysphagia and Parkinson’s Disease: Symptoms and Treatment

Medically reviewed by Sandeep Dhanyamraju
Medically reviewed by Sandeep Dhanyamraju

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a degenerative disease of the central nervous system that often impairs motor and non-motor functions. It can range from mild to severe and significantly affect the quality of life. Dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, is one of the most common non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Initially, people with Parkinson’s may not even realize they have trouble swallowing, as the disease can manifest itself at any point. But how do you live with it?

In this blog article, we’ll take an in-depth look at what dysphagia in Parkinson’s disease is and what its symptoms are. We’ll also look at ways to help patients with Parkinson’s disease cope with dysphagia and keep food and drinks from making you uncomfortable. Read on to find out how to manage and live happily.

 

What is Dysphagia in Parkinson’s?

As we have written before, dysphagia can be defined as difficulty swallowing. When it comes to Parkinson’s disease, patients may not immediately understand why they have difficulty swallowing food or liquids. Dysphagia occurs when the muscles in the throat and esophagus don’t work correctly. Accordingly, people with Parkinson’s can experience this in most cases. There can be problems with chewing, moving food from the mouth to the stomach, and even getting food or liquid into the lungs.  

In general, dysphagia can result from many different causes, and in people with Parkinson’s disease, it is most often caused by loss of muscle control, as we mentioned above. The muscles in the throat and esophagus are controlled by neurons that are affected if a person has Parkinson’s disease. When these muscles don’t work correctly, dysphagia can occur.

Dysphagia can affect the quality of life quite dramatically. It can lead to weight loss and malnutrition because people with dysphagia may avoid eating because of the difficulty. But there are other severe symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and dysphagia.

 

What are the Symptoms of Parkinson’s Dysphagia?

What are the symptoms of parkinsons dysphagia

The symptoms of dysphagia vary from person to person. They may also change over time as the disease progresses. Common symptoms include:

  • Trouble initiating a swallow
  • Trouble chewing
  • Feeling like food is sticking in the throat
  • Coughing or choking when eating
  • Bringing food back up after swallowing
  • Feeling like you have to clear your throat after swallowing
  • Trouble drinking liquids
  • Dribbling liquid from the mouth
  • Wet or gurgly voice during or after swallows
  • Avoiding certain foods because of difficulty swallowing
  • Weight loss

These are just some of the symptoms that can bring trouble into the life of a person with dysphagia in Parkinson’s disease.

 

Parkinson’s Dysphagia Treatment

parkinsons dysphagia treatment

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for dysphagia in Parkinson’s disease. To choose the best approach for treatment, you need to know the severity of the condition. Treatment options include:

  • Dietary changes: For people with mild dysphagia, changing food consistency may be enough to make swallowing easier. It may include making mashed or chopped foods and adding thickeners to liquids.
  • Exercise: Exercises that strengthen the throat and esophagus muscles may help some people with dysphagia. A variety of exercises, you can find here.
  • Speech therapy: A speech therapist can teach Parkinson’s and dysphagia patients to swallow differently to make swallowing easier. A speech therapist can also help you learn to compensate for muscle weakness.
  • Surgery: In some cases, dysphagia may require surgery to treat it. It may include inserting a feeding tube or implanting a device stimulating the nerves that control swallowing. Only your doctor can make this decision.

Although dysphagia is not curable, changing your diet and lifestyle can help you manage the condition and improve your quality of life. If you are experiencing any symptoms of dysphagia, it is essential to see your doctor to get an accurate diagnosis, and find the best treatment for you.

 

Read more about the role of Parkinson’s diet in our LoneStar blog.

 

How will Your Lifestyle Changes

There are a few things patients with Parkinson’s can do to make dysphagia more manageable.

  • Eat smaller meals more often: This will help you avoid feeling too full, making swallowing difficult.
  • Sit up while eating: This position will help food pass easily through your throat.
  • Chew your food thoroughly: Chewing food thoroughly will make it easier to swallow.
  • Avoid sticky, hard-to-swallow foods: Foods like peanut butter or chips can be challenging to swallow and may cause choking.
  • Drink plenty of fluids: It will help keep your mouth moist, making it easier to swallow.

 

Bottom Line 

If you or a loved one has Parkinson’s disease and dysphagia, lifestyle changes can help manage the disease and improve the quality of life. Talking to your doctor about the best way to manage your dysphagia is essential.

At Lone Star Neurology, you can get the advice and help you need from knowledgeable doctors. We care about every one of our patients, so we look forward to seeing you at one of our clinics.

 

FAQs 

  • What stage of Parkinson’s is difficult to swallow?

Dysphagia can occur in any stage of Parkinson’s disease, but it is most common in later stages.

  • Can Parkinson’s disease cause dysphagia?

Yes, Parkinson’s disease can cause dysphagia. Dysphagia is a condition that makes it hard to swallow. It can be caused by muscle weakness or damage to the nerves that control swallowing.

  • Why do Parkinson’s patients have trouble swallowing?

The main reason is that Parkinson’s disease causes a breakdown of the muscles in the throat and esophagus. This muscle breakdown makes it difficult to swallow.

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Edward Medina
Edward Medina
15:34 30 Jun 22
Just such an amazing staff that makes you feel like part of their family. I’ve been going there for over 5 years now... and each visit I get the very best care and treatments that I have ever received in the 20+ years that I’ve been dealing with severe debilitating migraines. Since i started seeing them the number of my migraines has dropped from 15-20 a month to 2-3 every 3 month. I highly recommend them …they will change your life!read more
Daneisha Johnson
Daneisha Johnson
22:20 19 May 22
Dr. Askari was very kind and explained everything so I could understand. The other staff were nice as well. I would... have gave 5 stars but I was a little taken aback when I checked in and had to pay 600.00 upfront. I think that should have been discussed in a appointment confirmation call or email just so I could have been prepared.read more
Jean Cooper
Jean Cooper
16:54 29 Apr 22
I love the office staff they are friendly and very helpful. Dr. JODIE is very caring and understanding to your needs... and wants to help you. I will go back. would recommend Dr. Dr. Jodie to other Patients in a heart beat. The team works well together.read more
Linda M
Linda M
19:40 02 Apr 22
I was obviously stressed, needing to see a neurologist. The staff was so patient and Dr. Ansari was so kind. At one... point he told me to relax, we have time, when I was relaying my history of my condition. That helped ease my stress. I have seen 3 other neurologists and he was the only one who performed any assessment tests on my cognitive and physical skills. At one point I couldn't complete two assessments and got upset and cried. I was told, it's OK. That's why you're here. I was truly impressed, and super pleased with the whole experience!read more
Leslie Durham
Leslie Durham
15:05 01 Apr 22
I've been coming here for about 5 years. The staff are ALWAYS friendly and knowledgeable. The Doctors are the absolute... best!! Jodie Moore is always in such a great mood which is a plus when you are already stressed. Highly recommendedread more
Monica Del Bosque
Monica Del Bosque
14:13 25 Mar 22
Since my first post my thoughts have changed here. It's unfortunate. My doctor and PA were great, but the office staff... is horrible. They never call you back when they say they will, they misinform you, they cause you too much stress wondering what's going on, they don't keep you posted. They never answer the phone. At this point I've left four messages in the last week, and I have sent three messages. Twice from their portal and one direct email. No response. My appointment is on Monday morning at 8:30am, no confirmation on my insurance and what's going on. What the heck is going on, this is ridiculous!I've given up... the stress her office staff has put me through is just not worth it. You can do so much better, please clean house, either change out your office staff, or find a way for them to be more efficient please. You have to do something. This is not how you want to run your practice. It leaves a very bad impression on your business.read more
Ron Buckholz
Ron Buckholz
23:32 23 Mar 22
I was actually pleasantly surprised with this visit! It took me a long time to get the appointment scheduled because no... one answers your phones EVER! After a month, I finally got in, and your staff was warm, friendly, and I was totally impressed! I feel like you will take care of my needs!read more
Steve Nabavi
Steve Nabavi
16:28 16 Mar 22
It was a nice visit. Happy staff doing all they can do to comfort the patients in a very calming environment. You ask... me they are earned a big gold star on the fridge. My only complaint they didn't give me any cookies.read more
Katie Lewis
Katie Lewis
16:10 10 Feb 22
Had very positive appointments with Jodie and Dr. Sheth for my migraine care. Jodie was so fast with the injections and... has so much valuable info. I started to feel light headed during checkout and the staff was SO helpful—giving me a chair, water, and taking me into a private room until I felt better. Highly recommend this practice for migraine patients, they know what they’re doing!!read more
Joshua Martinez
Joshua Martinez
16:02 10 Dec 21
I was scheduled to be checked and just want to say that the staff was fantastic. They were kind and helpful. I was... asked many questions related to what was going on and not once did I feel as though I was being brushed off. The front desk staff was especially great in assisting me. I'm scheduled to go back for a mri and am glad that I'll be going there.read more
Isabel Ivy
Isabel Ivy
21:42 03 Nov 21
I had such a good experience with Lone Star Neurology, Brent my MRI Tech was so awesome and made sure I was very... comfortable during the appointment. He gave me ear plugs, a pillow, leg support and blanket, easiest MRI ever lol 🤣 My 72 hour EEG nurse Amanda was also so awesome. She made sure I was take care of over the 3 days and took her time with the electrodes to make sure it was comfortable for me! Paige was also a huge help in answering all my questions when it came to my test results, and letting me know her honest opinions about how I should go forth with my treatment.read more
Leslie Luce
Leslie Luce
17:37 20 Oct 21
The professionalism and want to help attitude of this office was present from the moment I contacted them. The follow... up and follow through as well as their willingness to find a way to schedule my dad was above and beyond. We visited two offices in the same day with the same experience. I am appreciative of this—we spend a lot of time with doctors and this was top notch start to finish.read more
robert Parker
robert Parker
16:38 16 Apr 21
I love going to this office. The staff is friendly and helpful. The doctor is great. I am getting the best... neurological tests and treatment I have ever had. The only reason I did not give them a 5 star rating is because it is impossible to reach a live person at the office to reschedule appointments. Every time I have tried to get through to the office it says all people are busy and I am sent to a voicemail. If they could get their phone answering fixed, I would give them a strong 5 stars.read more
MaryAnn Hornbaker
MaryAnn Hornbaker
00:26 25 Feb 21
Dr. Harney is an excellent Dr. I found him friendly , personable and thorough. I evidently am an unusual case. ... Therefore he spent a Hugh amount of time educating me. He even gave me literature to further explain my condition and how to follow up. This is something you rarely get from your doctors. So I am more than please with my doctor and his staff.read more
Roger Arguello
Roger Arguello
03:05 29 Jan 21
Always courteous, professional. The staff is very friendly and always work with you to find the best appointment time.... The care team has been great. Always taking the time to listen to your concerns and to find the best treatment.read more
Margaret Rowland
Margaret Rowland
01:12 27 Jan 21
I have been a patient at Lone Star Neurology for several years. Now both my adult daughters also are patients there. I... love Jodie. She is always so prompt whether it is a teleamed call are a visit in the office. She takes the time to explain everything to me and answers all my questions. I am so blessed to have Jodie as my doctor.read more
Susan Miller
Susan Miller
03:01 13 Jan 21
My husband had an accident 5 years ago and Lone Star Neurology has been such a blessing to us with my husbands care.... Jodie Moore is his provider and she is amazing! Jodie is very knowledgeable, caring, and thorough. She takes her time with you, making sure your needs are met and she is happy to answer any questions you may have. Lone Star Neurology’s patients are very lucky to have Jodie providing their care. Thank you Lone Star Neurology and especially Jodie for everything you have done for us. Jodie, you are the best!read more
Windalyn C
Windalyn C
01:32 09 Jan 21
Jodie is wonderful. She is very caring and knowledgeable. I have been to over a dozen neurologists, and none were able... to help me as much as they have here. Thanks!read more
Katie Kordel
Katie Kordel
00:40 09 Jan 21
Jodi Moore, nurse practitioner, is amazing. I have suffered from frequent, debilitating headaches for almost 20 years.... She has provided the best proactive and responsive care I have ever received. My quality of life has been greatly improved by her caring approach and tenacity in finding solutions.read more
Ellie Natsis
Ellie Natsis
15:41 07 Jan 21
I have had the best experience at this neurologist's office! For over a year I have been receiving iv treatments here... each month and my nurse, Bobbie is beyond wonderful!! She's so attentive, knowledgeable, caring, and detail oriented. She makes an otherwise uncomfortable experience much more pleasant and definitely puts me at ease! She also helps me with my insurance,ordering this specialty medication and dealing with the ordering process which is no easy feat.Needless to say, she goes above a beyond in every way and I'm so grateful to this office and to Bobbie for all they do for me!read more
Matt Morris
Matt Morris
15:39 07 Jan 21
Let me start by saying that I have been coming here for years. Due to my autoimmune disease, I am in this office... once every three weeks for multiple hours at a time. The office is very clean and the staff very friendly. My only complaint would be there communication via phone. They aren't the best at responding if you leave a voicemail and expect a call back. I understand that this is prob just due to the sheer number of alls they receive daily. What I can say I like the best about the office are the people. Bobby who handles my infusions is great. I never have any issues with her setting up my infusions. She is very quick to reply to messages sent via text and if she were to leave then my whole opinion of the office may change. I also enjoy people like Matt, Lauren, and Jodi. I appreciate all that they do for me and without this team I'm not sure I would be as happy as I am to visit the office as frequently as I have to. Please ensure that these folks are recognized as they are what makes my visit to this office so tolerable :).read more
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