Parkinson’s disease and Swallowing Difficulties

In Parkinson’s Disease, swallowing can be affected in different ways:

  • The muscles that move your tongue may become more rigid, affecting the ability to move food around in the mouth. Also, jaw movement can be reduced. This can affect chewing and swallowing of food
  • Muscles that control the movement of food through the throat can become rigid or slow to move, causing possible residue in your throat. This may make you feel as though food is stuck
  • Some people find it difficult to start a swallow, so food stays in the mouth for longer than usual before it is swallowed. This can also cause saliva to collect in the mouth and result in drooling/dribbling
  • Swallowing can be affected by tiredness – swallowing may be worse towards the end of the day or change depending on the timing of Parkinson’s medication
  • The tiredness and changes to your muscles may cause incoordination of your swallow which can cause coughing and feeling as though food or drink may have ‘gone down the wrong way’. If this becomes a continuous issue, you may notice you get recurrent chest infections or aspiration pneumonia.

Your speech and language therapist will be able to assess your swallow and make recommendations as to the safest food/drink consistencies and they will advise on any exercises you can do to try and improve your swallowing. They will also be able to advise on any strategies to help improve your swallow. If required your speech and language therapist can request an x-ray of your swallow.