Gradual Onset of Dysphagia: A Study of Patients with Oculopharyngeal Muscular Dystrophy
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This study describes five patients with slowly developing dysphagia secondary to oculopharyngeal muscular dystrophy (OPMD), a progressive neurological disorder characterized by gradual onset of dysphagia, ptosis, and facial and trunk limb weakness. OPMD is a genetic disorder that affects formerly healthy adults who typically begin to experience symptoms in the fourth or fifth decade of life. Despite the debilitating nature of the disease, it is common for affected individuals to live to old age. Because of the gradual progression of dysphagia, as well as the deterioration of articulation, resonance, and breath support, patients with OPMD may come to the attention of physicians, nurses, and speech pathologists before a diagnosis is made. We hope to heighten awareness of how these subjects developed strategies to cope with their swallowing problems without medical intevention until the disease was producing marked symptoms. Patients with suspected dysphagia should be questioned about overt problems with eating and swallowing, but also about their adaptations and compensatory strategies. A Clinical Interview Questionnaire is included that may yield additional information about hidden dysphagia.
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