Hillary Clinton is back in the news after suffering the worst coughing fit of her campaign.
Some observers believe Clinton is suffering from a severe form of Dysphagia (loss of swallowing sensation).
In Clinton's case, her dysphagia causes her to cough violently because her saliva travels down the wrong pipe into her lungs.
Dysphagia simply means difficulty swallowing food or liquids.
Dysphagia can be caused a stroke or Parkinson's disease (which some insiders say Clinton suffers from).
For most people, swallowing saliva is an involuntary reflex. But Clinton's swallow reflex is insufficient because something is wrong with the nerves that control her swallow mechanism.
So rather than swallow her saliva involuntarily, the saliva drains into her lungs while she's speaking, causing her to choke and cough to expel it.
This explains why Clinton seems fine until she begins speaking. Then her saliva travels down the wrong tube and she accidently aspirates (inhales) it into her lungs.
The brain reacts to aspiration by restricting the throat muscles to prevent any more fluids from going into the lungs.
But then Clinton does the worst possible thing for someone in her condition: she reaches for a glass of water.
That's like giving water to a drowning woman.
The water she sips takes the same route into her lungs rather than down her esophagus into her stomach.
Now her throat muscles squeeze even tighter.
Her brain sends a signal to the irritant receptors in her lungs to violently expel the fluid by coughing.
By this time she is likely in a mild panic mode because she can't breathe.
She struggles to speak but she can't because her throat muscles are clamped tightly.
This explains why Clinton is able to ask for water when she coughs but she is unable to speak after drinking the water.
During her coughing fit on the plane she asked for water -- and she even said "thank you" after she received the water. But she was forced to retreat to the back of the plane after she sipped the water.
Catching her breath and speaking clearly is a problem for Clinton until her throat muscles relax.
Clinton will need surgery to treat her severe form of Dysphagia. But that would mean dropping out of the presidential race.
As power hungry as Clinton is, she would probably rather die than drop out of the race.
This has been your Medical Minute.
More Info On the Web
Dysphagia: Difficulty Swallowing -- WebMD
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