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From The Gainesville Sun:
Difficulty swallowing can lead to potentially deadly infections for those with the disease.

For many of the nearly one million Americans with Parkinson's disease, swallowing is anything but automatic.

In fact, according to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation, the most common cause of death for Parkinson's patients is pneumonia caused by inhaling foreign material, such as food, while trying to swallow.

University of Florida researchers believe a hand-held device holds the solution to their swallowing problems.

According to a UF study reported in the current issue of the journal Neurology, about a third of the volunteers who used the device were able to swallow more easily.

The device itself is not new. Called an Expiratory Muscle Strength Training device, it has been used with success in patients with multiple sclerosis and in elderly, sedentary adults.

"The muscles involved in swallowing progressively weaken in Parkinson's patients and become uncoordinated in the same way that patients lose coordination and strength in their arms and legs," said Michelle Troche, the study's lead investigator.

Troche is a clinical lecturer and speech pathologist in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions' department of speech, language and hearing sciences.

As she explains it, as their disease progresses, it becomes more and more difficult for Parkinson's patients to sense material may have breathed into their airways. It also becomes much harder to cough and expel it. Since it's not sterile, the material can cause infections like pneumonia in the lungs.

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