The Center for Disease control rated complications from Parkinson’s disease as the 14th leading cause of death in the United States. Worldwide, it is estimated that four to six million people suffer from the condition. There is hope, however, as scientists work towards a cure and make progress in identifying the best treatment options for patients.
Many Parkinson’s patients, especially those in the later stages of the disease, experience difficulty swallowing, a condition known as dysphagia, which can affect their quality of life and cause life-threatening complications like aspiration pneumonia, malnutrition and dehydration, said Leslie Mahler, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Communicative Disorders at the University of Rhode Island who specializes in adults with neurological disorders. “The complication to be most concerned about is whether food is going down the right way,” she said.
Coughing or choking during or after meals is another sign that food is either stuck in the throat or that it has gone down the air passage (windpipe) into the lungs instead of into the esophagus – the muscular tube that carries food, liquids and saliva from the mouth to the stomach.