Health Care

April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month

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Recent studies suggest that someone is diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) every six minutes. In the United States alone, it is estimated that nearly one million people are living with the disease. (Resource: Parkinson.org)

In honor of Parkinson’s Awareness month, our specialists from the AdventHealth Tampa Voice and Swallowing Center would like to raise awareness of the disease and provide support to those who may be suffering.

Research from the Parkinson’s Foundation shows that 89% of those living with PD will have trouble with their speech. Common findings include a weak voice with poor volume, reduced ability to clearly articulate and an increased rate of speaking. As a result, those living with PD often must repeat themselves to be understood. While medication can be an effective treatment for many symptoms experienced by those living with PD, working with a speech pathologist is the gold-standard of care for those with issues speaking.  At AdventHealth Tampa’s Voice and Swallowing Center, we offer comprehensive evaluations followed by the development of a personalized treatment plan.

When it comes to treating the speech changes associated with Parkinson’s disease, there are multiple options.  The most common option is Lee Silverman Voice Therapy (LSVT). This is a globally standardized treatment designed specifically for patients with PD. It is an aggressive therapy program designed to strengthen the muscles that are used for speaking.  There is a significant amount of evidence supporting the effectiveness of this rehabilitative program as it relates to improving the many speech changes common in PD. 

Learn more about the Lee Silverman Voice therapy program: Medical Minute: Parkinson's Speech Treatments - YouTube

If a patient is not a candidate for an aggressive program, such as LSVT, our center also offers a more traditional speech therapy program. The focus of this program is to provide PD patients with simple tools and strategies that can improve their overall speech intelligibility.  Some of these strategies include using a proper rate of speech or inserting pauses in speech to allow for better breath support. Improving the breath support can allow for improved articulation, as well as volume.

“The goal of therapy, regardless of the program, is to improve overall speech intelligibility so the patients are repeating themselves less and able to communicate with others seamlessly,” says Cory O'Brien, Board Certified Speech Pathologist at AdventHealth Tampa.

In addition to difficulty speaking, more than 80% of those living with PD will have trouble swallowing. (Resource: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26590572/) In fact, aspiration pneumonia, which is the type of pneumonia that occurs when what you are swallowing goes down the wrong pipe, is the leading cause of death in PD. At AdventHealth’s Voice & Swallowing Center, we offer comprehensive swallowing evaluations followed by the development of a treatment plan personalized to the patient’s specific needs.  Treatment options range from swallowing exercises to learning how to modify your food and/or liquid to make it safer for swallowing. 

Cory O'Brien, SLP

About Cory O'Brien, SLP

Cory O'Brien is a Board-certified Speech Pathologist at AdventHealth Tampa. She has been working with Parkinson’s disease for over 22 years.

If you are having trouble with speaking or swallowing, and are interested in scheduling an appointment with Cory, please call Call813-467-4262 or visit TampaENTExperts.com.

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