People with MS often have swallowing difficulties. In many cases, they are associated with speech problems as well.
What Causes Speech and Swallowing Problems in People With MS?
Like other symptoms of MS, if you're experiencing swallowing or speech difficulties, it's because you have an area of damaged nerves that normally aid in performing these tasks.
Locating the damaged areas responsible for the speech problem is often difficult. Many areas in the brain, especially the brainstem, control speech patterns. Thus, lesions -- damaged areas -- in different parts of the brain can cause several types of changes in normal speech patterns. They range from mild difficulties to severe problems that make it difficult to speak and be understood.
What Are the Symptoms of a Swallowing Problem?
When swallowing difficulties are present, food or liquids that you eat may be inhaled into the trachea (windpipe) instead of going down the esophagus and into the stomach. Once in the lungs, the inhaled food or liquids can cause pneumonia or abscesses. Because the food or drink is not reaching the stomach, a person may also be at risk for malnutrition or dehydration.
How Are Swallowing Problems Diagnosed?
Initially, your doctor will ask you many questions about the nature of your problem and perform a physical exam, paying attention to the function of your tongue and swallowing muscles.
Occasionally, your doctor may recommend that you get a test called a modified barium swallow. This is a special imaging procedure where you drink or eat contrast material of different consistencies -- solid, thick liquid, and thin liquids after which a machine takes pictures tracing the path of the contrast material. Thus the precise location and manner of the swallowing problem can be identified.
How Are Swallowing Problems Treated?
A speech therapist (or speech and language pathologist) usually treats swallowing problems. Treatment typically consists of changes in diet, positioning of the head, exercises, or stimulation designed to improve swallowing. In very severe cases that do not respond to these measures, feeding tubes may be inserted directly into the stomach to provide the necessary fluids and nutrition.
Here are some tips that may make swallowing easier:
Another thing that can happen that I didn't see here -- and what causes me problems: esophogeal spasms. The esophogus can close up, not allowing food to continue down into the stomach. This can be very painful, and if it happens while eating (and food will trigger it), I'll throw up.
Most of the remedies for the spasm are what are listed here for other problems -- eat slowly, drink fluids, avoid eating dry foods without liquid (late night popcorn in bed is a no-no!). And I find that if I am talking and eating at the same time, that'll cause problems, too.
The spasms are part of the same spasm thing for any other muscle spasms. So far I've not found any meds that have helped.
Post Edited (Neurotransmissing) : 3/31/2006 4:57:12 PM (GMT-7)
p.s. DUH!! I see I already posted this long ago (above). The voice problems have gone away for the most part, at least for now.
Post Edited (Neurotransmissing) : 4/29/2006 5:22:07 PM (GMT-6)