What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive neurological disease that affects the area of the brain known as the substantia nigra. Neurons or nerve cells that are located in the substantia nigra produce a chemical neurotransmitter referred to as dopamine. Dopamine allows the neurons to transmit signals within the brain to muscles within the body. When the correct amount of dopamine is present then muscle movements are coordinated, smooth and integrated. Parkinson’s Disease causes neurons located in the substantia nigra to die resulting in a depletion of dopamine. This depletion of dopamine is particularly prevalent in the area of the brain known as the basal ganglia. The basal ganglia is responsible for movement organization throughout the body. Hence, when there is a lack of dopamine the individual’s ability to control body movements is affected.
How is Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosed?
Parkinson’s Disease is diagnosed by a physician or neurologist who specializes in neurological disorders affecting movement. Since many diseases can present with similar symptoms, it is important that the physician evaluates the patient by taking an in depth medical history, observes symptoms, compiles a list of medications which are used by the individual, and physically examines the individual for signs such as tremors or shaking movements of the hand or foot, especially when present at rest. Particular attention is given to the individual’s reflexes, muscle strength, and coordination of movement. Other diagnostic tests such as blood tests, computed tomography (CT) scans and or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans are used to assist in confirming a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease.
What Causes Parkinsons’ Disease?
To begin, according to The National Parkinson Foundation, approximately one million Americans have Parkinson’s Disease. The average onset of the disease is about 60 years old and is more common in men than in woman. About 10 percent of individuals diagnosed with the onset of disease is prior to age 40 years. Also, according to The National Parkinson Foundation, evidence is suggesting that the cause of the disease may be inherited.
What Are Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease?
The major symptoms of the disease appear to be the following:
• Muscle stiffness or rigidity
• Increased falling
• Loss of balance
• Bradykinesia (slow movement)
• Changes in walking and posture
• Changes in speech
• Changes in handwriting
• Difficulty swallowing
• Decreased facial expressions
• Tremors or shaking of hands and feet, although tremors may be on one side of
It should be noted that symptoms are likely to vary among individuals.
How Is Parkinson’s Disease Managed?
The disease is treated by a team of professionals who include, but not limited to, the neurologist, primary care physician, nurse, physical therapist, occupational therapist, and speech pathologist. It is important to consider that the individual have a complete hearing test to determine if hearing loss exists. Adequate hearing is necessary in order to communicate effectively with medical and healthcare providers and for emotional and social well being.
What Are Speech Problems Associated with Parkinson’s Disease?
• Hypophonia – reduced volume
• Changes in pitch – speech may sound monotone
• Dysarthria – imprecise articulation, speech is not clear, slurred speech.
• Word-finding difficulties
• Hoarse or strained voice
• Nasal sounding voice
What Are Swallowing Problems Associated with Parkinson’s Disease?
• Difficulty chewing, eating, and swallowing
• A sensation of food caught in the throat
• Coughing or choking while eating or drinking
• Difficulty drinking liquids
• Difficulty moving food to the back of the mouth
• Difficulty keeping food or liquid in the mouth
• It takes a long time to eat
• Unexplained weight loss
• Changes in voice quality after eating
• Unexplained fever
How Can A Speech Pathologist Help?
It is important to locate a Speech Pathologist who is highly skilled in treating patients with neurologically related speech, language and swallowing difficulties. The Speech Pathologist will conduct an initial evaluation to determine the areas of difficulty that the patient is exhibiting. Following a comprehensive intake and assessment, a plan of individualized treatment will be prepared. Treatment may include diet modification for improved swallowing ability, exercises and strategies for continued and safe oral feeding and drinking, oro–motor exercises to improve strength of the oral musculature such as face, lips, tongue, and cheeks for purposes of improving overall speech intelligibility, exercises to reduce stiffness and rigidity of the facial structures, and methods used to improve volume of voice.
A very effective treatment program which is recognized by The National Parkinson Foundation as the first proven program for treating speech and voice for Parkinson Disease is The Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT) Program. This program can only be provided by a Speech Pathologist who is Certified to administer the LSVT Program. Dr. John Amato and his staff Speech Pathologists are Certified LSVT Providers.
At Advanced Speech Pathology, patients will receive comprehensive assessments and individualized treatment plans which will facilitate improved speech and swallowing abilities, and ultimately improved quality of life.
For more information
Telephone (631) 849-6499