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Parkinson's Disease: Eating and Drooling Problems - Topic Overview

Parkinson's disease can change many of the muscles used for speech, chewing, and swallowing. Changes in these muscles may cause:

  • Weight loss and nutrition problems.
  • Slow eating.
  • Fatigue during eating.
  • Food "sticking" in the throat.
  • Coughing or choking on food or liquids.
  • Trouble swallowing saliva, which causes drooling.
  • Trouble swallowing pills.

But there are things you can do to help reduce eating and drooling problems. A speech-language pathologist (also called a speech therapist) can teach you exercises and show you other ways to help with eating, swallowing, and drooling.

Recommended Related to Parkinson's

Understanding Parkinson's Disease -- Diagnosis and Treatment

Usually, the outward symptoms of Parkinson's are distinctive enough for a doctor to make a diagnosis in the office.  There is no blood test or brain scan that confirms the diagnosis. But if you don't respond to the drugs used to treat Parkinson's disease, it’s possible you may have another type of movement disorder that causes the same type of symptoms.  Doing additional tests can help your doctor determine if some other problem is causing your parkinsonian symptoms.

Read the Understanding Parkinson's Disease -- Diagnosis and Treatment article > >

Eating problems

You can reduce eating problems by changing how and what you eat.

  • Sit upright when eating, drinking, and taking pills.
  • Take small bites of food, chew completely, and swallow before taking another bite.
  • Take small sips of liquid, and hold them in your mouth as you prepare to swallow.
  • If eating is tiring, divide food into smaller but more frequent meals.
  • Thicker drinks make swallowing easier. Try milk shakes or juices in gelatin form.
  • Eat moist, soft foods. Use a blender to prepare food for easier chewing.
  • Avoid foods such as crackers or cakes that crumble easily. These can cause choking.
  • If you cough or choke, lean forward and keep your chin tipped downward while you cough.

Drooling

To reduce drooling:

  • Keep your chin up and your lips closed when you aren't speaking or eating.
  • Swallow often, especially before you start to speak.
  • Ask a speech therapist about exercises to strengthen lip muscles.
  • Avoid sugary foods that cause more saliva to develop.
  • Ask your doctor about medicines you can use to help the problem.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: December 05, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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