Congratulations to Drs Patel, Legacy, Hegland, Okun and Herndon on the publication of “A comprehensive review of the diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson’s disease dysphagia and aspiration,” in the July issue of Journal Expert Review of Gastroenterology & Hepatology.
Bulbar dysfunction is common in Parkinson’s disease (PD) with more than 80% of affected individuals developing dysphagia during the course of the disease. Symptoms can begin in the preclinical stage and individuals may remain clinically asymptomatic for years. Furthermore, patients may be unaware of swallowing changes, which contributes to the difference between the prevalence of self-reported dysphagia and deficits identified during instrumental evaluations. Dysphagia is underrecognized and contributes to the development of aspiration pneumonia which is the leading cause of death in PD. Dysphagia in PD is complex and not completely understood. Both dopaminergic and nondopaminergic pathways likely underpin dysphagia.
This comprehensive review will cover the epidemiology, pathophysiology, clinical evaluation, and expert management of dysphagia and aspiration in patients with PD.
A multidisciplinary team approach is important to properly identify and manage PD dysphagia. Regular clinical screenings with objective instrumental assessments are necessary for early detection of dysphagia. Studies are needed to better understand the mechanism(s) involved in PD dysphagia, establish markers for early detection and progression, and develop evidence-based treatment options.