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Jeff Brody
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Drooling and Cerebral Palsy

About 30% of children and adults with cerebral palsy exhibit excessive drooling as a side effect of the disease.  The reason for the CP sufferer’s drooling is not because of an overproduction of saliva, but rather an inability to swallow the normal amounts of saliva that are being produced. 

Excessive drooling adds to the CP sufferer’s dilemmas and may lead to such complications as a reddening around the mouth, chin, and neck.  The condition can also lead to dehydration, which if left untreated can pose a serious health risk to the child.  Excessive drooling may also be attributable to eating problems, choking, and infections as well.  Drooling also has obvious social stigmas attached to it, and the social interactions of a cerebral palsy sufferer may be compounded when accompanied by drooling.

In order to treat drooling in cerebral palsy sufferers many types of drug treatments have been tried, including the use of some anticholinergic medicines that may involve serious side effects such as over dryness of the mouth and digestive problems.  There are some surgical procedures which may prove effective as well, but overall have other side effects or aren’t available to some types of cerebral palsy.

One recent study suggests that Botox injections may stem excessive drooling.  Botox has been used in cerebral palsy to stem muscle over activity, but also has dryness of the mouth as a side effect.  This side effect has proven to be somewhat successful in treating drooling in children and adults with cerebral palsy.  Early results show a 70% improvement in excessive drooling and cerebral palsy.  Injections can be done as little as once a year, but should be followed closely. 

Other methods of treatment include biofeedback therapy wherein the child can learn to develop his or her own swallowing reflex, and other types of physical and even psychological therapies which may include positive reinforcement for swallowing.
Ongoing treatments appear to be the only long acting therapies that show results in drooling in persons with cerebral palsy.  Care and patience coupled with reasonable attention to the problem can help stave off this problem.

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