My MS Speech Issues, and Why I Want to Head Off Any Swallowing Problems

My MS Speech Issues, and Why I Want to Head Off Any Swallowing Problems

Faith of the Mustard Seed
Many of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis feel random, and can be down right terrifying. I’ve recently been suffering from a scary MS symptom: slurred speech, also known as dysarthria.

I open my mouth expecting the words I have chosen to appear. Instead, I slur and stutter as my brain produces a different sound than intended. It is both scary and embarrassing, as I have no idea a problem exists until it happens.

Concern about this led me to the The National MS Society website, where I found article on speech problems associated with my condition. The site says speech problems are relatively common. Speech is controlled by the brain, mainly the brainstem. MS lesions that appear in the brain can disrupt speech patterns.

One pattern is scanning speech. This disruption is characterized by extended pauses between words or syllables. Another problem the site mentions is nasal speech. This involves a person having a nasal sound when they talk, as if they have a cold. My slurring is most likely due to weak or uncoordinated muscles of the tongue, cheek, lips, and mouth, I learned.

Problems with swallowing, dysphagia, is a complication associated with dysarthria. A speech or language pathologist can help with dysarthria and dysphagia by offering advice on speech patterns, communication and enunciations. These therapists evaluate, diagnose and treat problems.

Dysphagia can involve choking on food or drink, or silent aspiration, which is inhaling food into the windpipe or lungs, instead of it going into the stomach. “Once in the lungs, the inhaled food or liquids can cause pneumonia or abscesses,” the National MS Society says. This is a horrific symptom of MS. It appears most often in advanced stages of the disease, but can show up any time the condition is progressing.

Doctors diagnose dysphagia through patient history and a neurological examination of the tongue and swallowing muscles. An imaging test called a videofluoroscopy is used to check a patient’s ability to chew and swallow. It can identify the location of the problem, so treatment can begin.

Treatment from a speech or language pathologist, safer eating and swallowing routines, and exercises to strengthen swallowing muscles can all help. In extreme cases, when other treatment options have failed, doctors can use a stomach tube to feed a patient — to prevent malnutrition.

MS can generate painful, unpredictable and frightful symptoms. To me, losing the ability to swallow is one of the most terrifying. Since I’ve begun slurring my words, I will be proactive and visit a speech or language pathologist for an evaluation. Hopefully I can slow any progression toward the MS symptom I fear the most: dysphagia.

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Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

5 comments

  1. Gail De Noce Welch says:

    Hi, Debi, Thank you for sharing your symptoms of MS. I have MS, and have had Dysphagia for a long time. Fortunately, it is mostly difficulty swallowing pills with fluids, and sometimes just drinking fluids. I began taking my pills by putting them in a spoon of yogurt or applesauce, and am able to swallow them with little difficulty. Also, drinking with a straw also prevents me from choking, if I drink slowly & carefully. Drinking thick drinks such as smoothies is also helpful. I eat small bites of food, and chew & swallow them very carefully. I have had trouble with stumbling on words when speaking. It is good that you are seeking ways to improvise and be able to persevere through MS challenges. Your “Faith of the Mustard Seed” title is inspiring!

    • Debi Wilson says:

      Thank-you Gail, for your kind comments and helpful ideas! I’m sorry you’ve had to live with Dysphagia for a long time! Faith is what gets me through all that comes with having MS! Best wishes to you DebI

    • bon obrien says:

      twice,2012 and 2015, had speech slurring,swallowing difficulty,aspiration leading to pneumonia-placed in rehab facility w/ speech therapy,swallowing study,chest x-rays. usually co-incided w/ triple bladder infection. frequently had slurred speech, lost hearing in l. ear and seeing spots if outside on a very hot and humid day. now own a Steele ice vest. NEVER LOSE FAITH!

      • Debi Wilson says:

        Thank-you Bon! I really appreciate your comments!
        “Never lose faith” is great advice to always be reminded of! The best to you! Debi

  2. Karen Davenport says:

    I have had slurred speech and swallowing problems. I went thru therapy. I take it day by day much better with these sites. Learning so much and getting the encouragement from others out there going thru it also. Helps knowing your not a lone.

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