The Cleveland Clinic

Parkinson's Disease:
Other Medical Concerns: Swallowing Problems

Introduction

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) 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.

How Are Swallowing Problems Diagnosed?

If you are having trouble swallowing, contact your doctor. He or she will recommend a speech pathologist to carefully examine your swallowing abilities and evaluate your aspiration risk. A swallowing study using foods and liquids of varying consistency under video-fluoroscopy may be given.

How Can I Make Chewing and Swallowing Easier?

The way you sit and the type of food you eat can influence your ability to swallow. Here are some suggestions to make chewing and swallowing easier.