It’s a daily battle. You’re living inside a body that no longer feels like your own.
It moves when you don’t want to move. It refuses to move when you need it to.
It is as though your body has been hijacked and you don’t know how to regain control.
Now, Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is taking something far more precious than even your ability to walk or dress yourself. It’s taking your ability to communicate with those you love.
But PD does not have to rob you of your voice. Read on to learn more about Parkinson’s and speech.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
At the most basic level, Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a disorder of the nervous system. PD causes vital nerve cells in the brain to deteriorate, significantly decreasing the body’s stores of dopamine and other essential neuro-chemicals responsible for controlling movement.
This results in the tremors that are classically associated with PD.
Tremors, however, are only one of the varied and unpredictable symptoms of PD.
Persons with PD may also experience muscle rigidity or weakness. Movement may be slowed and problems with balance and coordination are common.
Additionally, PD can lead to challenges in thinking, concentrating, or remembering. Patients may even experience hallucinations, delusions, or paranoia as a result of changes in the brain.
It’s estimated that more than 10 million people worldwide have PD, with more than 95% of patients diagnosed after the age of 50.
Parkinson’s and Speech
Parkinson’s doesn’t just affect patients’ ability to control bodily movements. It also can significantly impact their ability to speak.
As the disorder progresses, people with PD can experience voice changes, making them sound hoarse or breathy. They may have difficulty making themselves heard.
Patients with PD also frequently experience stammering, stuttering, or slurring of their words.
Additionally, speech may become very rapid, making it hard for others to understand.
On the other hand, patients who experiencing difficulty with memory or concentration may struggle to find their words, while muscle weakness or nerve damage may make it hard for them to form their words.
The result can be slow, halting, and error-filled speech that’s frustrating both to the patient and to listeners.
Because of the effect of PD on nerves and muscles of the face, throat, and vocal cords, patients may also experience difficulty swallowing. This may cause PD patients to drool, which can further hinder their ability, or willingness, to speak.
As difficult as it may be to deal with the physical changes and the loss of function associated with PD, the isolation that patients often experience may be even worse.
People with PD may be reluctant to go out in public. They may worry about falling. They may worry that their tremors will cause people to stare.
They may avoid restaurants for fear of spilling their food or shattering dinnerware. They may refuse to go shopping for fear of knocking into displays or breaking merchandise.
This tendency to retreat to one’s house, to avoid the activities that they once enjoyed, severely diminishes the patient’s overall quality of life, increasing the risk for depression and other psychological disorders.
These problems are made far worse, however, when PD-related speech impairments begin to impact the patient’s ability to communicate with his or her loved ones.
As disease symptoms progress, PD patients may find themselves increasingly reluctant to try to speak, even to those closes to them.
They may feel embarrassed by the difficulty they have in recalling or clearly speaking even the simplest of words. Or they may simply feel too tired or too depressed to make the effort.
This can launch a vicious cycle in which the patient increasingly retreats into herself, withdrawing from friends and family.
That, in turn, increases the deterioration of her speech, speeding both the cognitive decline and the weakening of the muscles responsible for speech.
And, all too often, as problems in communication increase, so do depression and the tendency to isolate.
There is Hope
Parkinson’s Disease is a relentless enemy. It is a thief and a tyrant.
But it doesn’t have to steal your voice. It doesn’t have to take you away from the people you love most.
There is a wide range of treatment options available to relieve PD symptoms and slow disease progression. This includes a number of clinically-proven techniques specifically designed to treat PD-related speech impairments.
Speech therapy has been proven highly effective in helping PD patients learn to manage their symptoms.
Best of all, patients don’t have to leave home to receive speech therapy. Studies are increasingly demonstrating that online speech therapy is as effective as traditional, in-office treatment.
This can be a great option for patients who may have difficulty arranging transportation to sessions or for those who require more frequent sessions.
With the online option, patients can receive highly effective treatment whenever and wherever they choose.
Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive and unpredictable disease. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed, then you know that life with PD can be unpredictable and scary.
You never know what part of your body PD will strike next. You cannot guess what form your next symptoms will take.
The fact is that, left untreated, PD can rob you of your ability to function. It can overwhelm both your body and your mind.
Worse, it can render you incapable of reaching out to those you love most. It can deprive you of the ability to speak your truth, to communicate your needs, to express your love.
It can deny you your right to scream your frustration.
But it does not have to be this way. There is hope. Highly successful treatment options exist to help you manage the physical, psychological, and cognitive symptoms of PD.
Additionally, speech therapy, including online treatment, has been shown to be highly successful in managing the effects of Parkinson’s on patients’ speech.
Please visit our about page to learn more Parkinson’s and speech disorders, as well as the online treatment options available to help you or your loved one!