Swallowing

People with PD may notice changes in or difficulty with chewing, eating, or swallowing. These changes happen at any time, but they tend to increase as PD progresses. Common changes include:

  • Slowness in eating.
  • A sensation that food is caught in the throat.
  • Coughing or choking while eating or drinking.
  • Difficulty swallowing pills and drooling.

What can you do about drooling?

  • If you tend to drool, you probably don’t have more saliva than you used to have; you are just not swallowing it as automatically as before.
  • Frequent sips of water or sucking on ice chips during the day can help you swallow more often.
  • Always keep your head up, with your chin parallel to the floor, and your lips closed when you are not talking or eating.
  • Reduce your sugar intake, as it tends to make more saliva in the mouth.
  • You might also consider having Myobloc (Botulinum toxin B) injections into the parotid gland—the biggest saliva-producing gland. The parotid gland is right near your ear and the injections last 3-4 months.
  • Anticholinergic medications can be used to help control drooling. However, because of the side effects the preferred method is the Myobloc injection.

What Can You Do about Phlegm?

  • Drinking more water will help thin the phlegm.
  • Drinking carbonated beverages or tea with lemon may also help.
  • Avoid eating or drinking dairy products, as these products can make phlegm worse.

Want to Learn More?

Read this "Parkinson Report" article:
Expiratory Muscle Strength Training

Read this "Parkinson Report" article:
Ask the Doctor: Summer 2010

Request a free copy of this NPF manual:
Speech and Swallowing

Medical content reviewed by: Nina Browner, MD—Medical Director of the NPF Center of Excellence at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in North Carolina and by Fernando Pagan, MD—Medical Director of the NPF Center of Excellence at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C.

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