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Parkinson's Disease

Loss of throat reflex

06/03/2008

Question:

A family member lost his ability to swallow due to parkinson`s disease. What can he do if he has a cold because he cannot swallow to clear his throat or cough? Any suggestions?

Answer:

Swallowing problems in advanced PD are a serious situation and not uncommon. A thorough swallowing evaluation should be obtained to assess the extent of the disability at the onset of problems. Aspiration pneumonia and dangerous choking are two of the most serious consequences.

Unfortunately, PD medications have very little effect on swallowing problems (also called dysphaga). Swallowing therapy from a speech therapist may be helpful. Aggressive treatment of any respiratory infections by the primary care doctor is vital in trying to prevent the development of pneumonia. Finally, an open discussion with the patient and family members needs to be accomplish to address the patient's wishes regarding a feeding tube (placed through the abdominal wall) should the ability to swallow become so impaired that oral intake becomes dangerous.

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Response by:

Punit  Agrawal, DO Punit Agrawal, DO
Assistant Professor of Neurology
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University