Multiple Sclerosis

The speech and swallowing problems of Multiple Sclerosis

People with multiple sclerosis, or MS, often have swallowing difficulties, which can lead to speech problems.

What causes Speech or Swallowing Problems in Multiple Sclerosis?

If you are experiencing swallowing or speech difficulties, it’s possible there is an area of damaged nerves that normally aid in performing these tasks.

What are the Symptoms of a Swallowing Problem?

  • Coughing or Choking when eating
  • Feeling like food is lodged in throat
  • Unexplained recurrent lung infections (pneumonia)
  • Otherwise unexplained malnutrition or dehydration

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 treated?

A speech therapist (or a speech and language pathologist) usually treats swallowing problems. Treatment typically consists of changes in diet, positioning 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 necessary fluids and nutrition.

What types of Speech problems come with Multiple Sclerosis?

One pattern of speech that is commonly associated with multiple sclerosis is called “scanning” speech. This type of speech produces speech in which the normal “melody” or speech pattern is disrupted, with abnormally long pauses between words or individual syllables of words.

People with MS may also slur words. This is usually the result of weak tongue, lip, and mouth muscles. Other speech problems include Dysarthia, or nasal speech, which sounds as though the person has a cold or nasal obstruction.

How are speech problems diagnosed and treated in Multiple Sclerosis?

A speech/language pathologist or therapist help people with multiple sclerosis improve speech patterns, enunciation, and oral communication in general.

Contact us today for more information on how STARS can help.