Throat :: Changes to nerves in throat lead to medical issues in elderly

As we grow older, changes to the nerves in the throat result in less sensitivity, which may play a role in why the elderly are more likely to develop repeat cases of pneumonia, as well as trouble swallowing (dysphagia) and aspiration, according to a new study published in the May 2007 edition of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery.

The small study, which contains preliminary, hypothesis-generating findings, found that the total number of myelinic fibers in the superior and recurrent laryngeal nerves in adults in the younger of two age groups was significantly higher than that of a group comprised of the elderly.

Myelinic fibers surround nerves and control pulses between the brain and other parts of the body. The study suggests the loss of these fibers is a primary cause of the decrease in pharlyngeal and supralottic sensitivity that is associated with the aging process, leading to an increase in certain problems.

The study observed the cadavers of healthy men from two age groups; the younger group averaged 46 years old, while the older group?s average age was 78. During that time period, the authors discovered, the number of myelinic fibers in the recurrent laryngeal nerves decreases by nearly 30 percent.

Otolaryngology- Head and Neck Surgery is the official scientific journal of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS). The study?s authors are Romualdo Tiago, MD, PhD; Paulo Pontes, MD, PhD; and Osiris C. Brasil, MD, PhD. They are associated with the Federal University of Sao Paulo, in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

About the AAO-HNS

The American Academy of Otolaryngology ? Head and Neck Surgery (www.entnet.org), one of the oldest medical associations in the nation, represents more than 12,000 physicians and allied health professionals who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the ears, nose, throat, and related structures of the head and neck. The Academy serves its members by facilitating the advancement of the science and art of medicine related to otolaryngology and by representing the specialty in governmental and socioeconomic issues. The organization?s mission: ?Working for the Best Ear, Nose, and Throat Care.?

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Throat :: Changes to nerves in throat lead to medical issues in elderly
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