Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a chronic and progressive movement disorder, meaning that symptoms continue and worsen over time. Nearly one million people in the US are living with Parkinson’s disease. The cause is unknown, and although there is presently no cure, there are treatment options such as medication and surgery to manage its symptoms.

The specific group of symptoms that an individual experiences varies from person to person. Primary motor signs of Parkinson’s disease include the following.

  • tremor of the hands, arms, legs, jaw and face
  • bradykinesia or slowness of movement
  • rigidity or stiffness of the limbs and trunk
  • postural instability or impaired balance and coordination

How it effects speech

Some 90 percent of people with Parkinson’s experience changes in their speech. They tend to speak softly, even though to them it feels as if they are speaking at a normal volume. Additionally, people with Parkinson’s often speak in a monotone, and their voices can get hoarse. As the disease progresses, they may articulate words less precisely or develop a tremor in the voice.

How it effects swallowing

Many people with Parkinson’s disease have difficulty swallowing because they lose control of their mouth and throat muscles. As a result, chewing and managing solid foods can be difficult.

Swallowing problems increase the risk of aspiration (inhaling fluid or stomach contents into the lungs) and pneumonia in people with Parkinson’s disease. For some, following special swallowing techniques is sufficient to alleviate swallowing problems. For others, dietary changes may be necessary.

*Information provided by the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation and Parkinson’s Disease Health Center