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Sialorrhoea and reversals in ALS functional rating scale
  1. Susana Pinto1,
  2. Marta Gromicho1,
  3. Mamede de Carvalho1,2
  1. 1 Faculty of Medicine, Institute of Physiology and Instituto de Medicina Molecular, University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal
  2. 2 Department of Neurosciences and Mental Health, Centro Hospitalar Lisboa Norte—Hospital de Santa Maria, Lisbon, Portugal
  1. Correspondence to Professor Susana Pinto, Institute of Physiology and Instituto de Medicina Molecular, Faculty of Medicine, University of Lisbon, Portugal, Av Prof Egas Moniz, Lisbon 1649-028, Portugal; susana.c.pinto{at}

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Sialorrhoea is a common debilitating symptom in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). It occurs when there is excessive saliva in the mouth beyond the lip margin.1 In ALS, sialorrhoea is not related to the increased production of saliva but to the impaired swallowing resulting from dysfunction of bulbar muscles.2

Swallowing requires an efficient coordination of several muscles in the mouth, pharynx, larynx and oesophagus, involved in oral, pharyngeal and oesophageal phases of the swallowing process.3 The first phase is under voluntary control, while the remaining steps are automatic.4 Spontaneous swallowing is necessary for drool control.3 Salivary secretion is regulated via a reflex arch, with the information processed in the salivary nuclei in the medulla oblongata. The afferent pathway consists of chemoreceptors in taste buds, mechanoreceptors in the periodontal ligament and afferents in the V, VII, IX and X cranial nerves. Parasympathetic efferencies enter the VII (submandibular, sublingular and minor glands) and IX cranial nerves (parotid gland).5 In bulbar patients, dysphagia, weak mouth occlusion, head drop, impaired tongue–palate coordination and swallowing reflex impairment increase the risk of sialorrhoea.6 Pharyngo-oesophageal dysfunction can lead to aspiration and the unpleasant feeling of thick saliva in the pharyngeal walls.

Excessive saliva in the mouth can cause halitosis and perioral skin erosion, which have professional and social implications.3 ,7 Increased risk of dehydration and reduced compliance with facial masks on non-invasive ventilation are relevant problems.3 ,8 Anticholinergic drugs, botulinum …

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  • Contributors SP and MdC were equally involved in the assessment and follow-up of the patients, collecting and analysing the clinical data, writing and reviewing the manuscript. MG contributed to the analyses of the data and writing of the manuscript.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval Ethics Committee of Hospital de Santa Maria.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.