What Are the Stages of Progressive Bulbar Palsy?

Progressive bulbar palsy usually leads to slurred speech and difficulty swallowing, as Rutgers University details. As the condition progresses, tongue and lip movements become difficult, as highlighted by the Dutch Neuromuscular Research Center, and the condition usually develops with amytrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

Patients presenting the symptoms of progressive bulbar palsy may experience difficulty speaking, swallowing or both, according to Rutgers University. Due to the degeneration of motorneuron cells in the bulbar area of the brain, patients lose the ability to control the muscles of the jaw, tongue, face and throat. Usually, bulbar palsy appears alongside amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, and it’s rare for the condition to appear alone. Because of this, patients with this condition usually develop other ALS symptoms, which include loss of movement in the arms and legs.

As the disease progresses, patients experience limited tongue and lip movements, but they usually retain eye control, as the Dutch Neuromuscular Research Center explains. Patients who also have ALS experience a gradual onset of its symptoms, which include clumsiness, fatigue, loss of muscle control and spasticity, as the ALS Association describes, and those with the condition eventually lose the ability to move, eat, speak and breathe without assistance. Loss of diaphragm muscle control ultimately reduces patients’ life expectancy, according to the ALS Association.

The condition usually sets in between the ages of 40 and 70, and around 20,000 Americans have the condition at any one time, as indicated by the ALS Association. Those who serve in the military have a predisposition to develop the condition, but the reasons for this are unknown as of 2015.