Parkinson’s Disease

What Is Parkinson's Disease?

Parkinson’s Disease is a slowly progressive hereditary condition caused by loss of cells in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra that helps to control movement. Patients with this disorder can have slowed movements, rigidity of the movement of arms and legs, hoarseness or weak voice, and swallowing problems. The hoarseness is usually caused by thinning or bowing of the vocal folds so that there is a gap in between them during sound production (when normally they would touch completely).

Breath support exercises (such as Lee Silverman Voice Therapy or LSVT) can help vocal projection in Parkinson’s. Vocal cord injection or medialization with a thyroplasty operation can also help the vocal cords to approximate which can improve volume and projection. Swallowing problems can arise from weakness of throat muscles as well as failure of the cricopharyngeus muscle (the “drain at the bottom of the throat”) to open. Swallowing therapy with strengthening exercises, diet modification, and airway protection techniques during eating can be of benefit in most cases. Dilation or division of the cricopharyngeus muscle may improve swallowing when dysphagia is severe.