Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neuro-disorder that afflicts between seven and 10 million people worldwide. Roughly 60,000 people in the US are diagnosed with Parkinson’s every year.
With such a widespread disease, it’s reassuring to know that speech therapy is having a positive impact on these patients. Learn more here on how this Parkinson’s disease treatment is changing lives every day.
What’s Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a disorder that takes place when your brain’s neurons start to die. These neurons produce the chemical Dopamine. Dopamine regulates your attention and learning spans as well as your physical movements.
When your brain reduces its dopamine production, you lose your physical coordination to stay balanced or walk. Parkinson’s patients also lose neurotransmitters that produce a chemical called Norepinephrine. Norepinephrine controls automatic body functions such as blood pressure and heart rate.
Researchers don’t know the Parkinson’s disease causes. Some believe it’s an inherited condition. Other studies show that Parkinson’s is a combination of exposure to environmental contaminants as well as genetics.
Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms
There are four primary symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. These indicators include:
- Impaired balance and physical coordination;
- Trembling head, hands, legs, jaw, or arms;
- Difficulty speaking; and
- Difficulty swallowing.
These symptoms appear gradually and then grow more severe over time. Patients also start to suffer from other difficulties like memory loss or sleeping disruptions.
Parkinson’s disease can create many frustrating speech impediments. Patients begin to mumble or slur their words. PD patients may also develop hoarse speech, peppered with lots of stammering or stuttering.
Parkinson’s Disease Stages
There is a natural progression of Parkinson’s that breaks down into five distinct stages. Stage one or “early-onset” usually begins before a victim’s 50th birthday.
This stage is characterized by mild symptoms that don’t interfere with daily activities. Tremors usually appear on one side of the body.
Between stages two and three symptoms include increased rigidity on both sides of the body and difficulty moving. Everyday tasks such as eating and dressing, take longer to complete. Falls are more common during stage three.
During stage four, symptoms are more limiting. Individuals will need help with eating and dressing and use a walker. Patients with stage five symptoms usually can’t walk, stand, or live alone.
Speech Therapy for Parkinson’s Disease Treatment
One speech therapy treatment that’s been effective is the Lee Silverman Voice Technique (LSVT.) LSVT shows patients how to increase their vocal loudness.
Therapists with speech therapy Parkinson’s certification teach their patients how to “think loudly.” Patients are encouraged to use exaggerated motions and facial expressions.
They also learn exercises that help develop speech speed and word pronunciation. Therapists also provide pointers on talking in a noisy environment as well.
LSVT has been shown to improve speech abilities after just one month. Results last as long as two years after treatment. Patients can learn the LSVT method quickly and should practice LSVT exercises daily to maintain their progress.
What Are Your Next Steps?
Does LSVT speech therapy sound like a promising Parkinson’s disease treatment to you? If you are a recent Parkinson’s patient, ask your doctor about finding a speech therapist for Parkinson’s near you. Plan to incorporate LSVT methods into your schedule four days a week for four consecutive weeks to receive the maximum benefits.
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