Dysphagia, or problems with swallowing, is common in patients with multiple sclerosis and significantly reduces their quality of life, according to a new Australian study. Symptoms such as coughing and choking, and mental health issues related to eating or drinking, are common in this patient population, the data show.
The research, “The frequency of dysphagia and its impact on adults with multiple sclerosis based on patient-reported questionnaires,” was published in the journal Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders.
Studies estimate that dysphagia may affect 30-40% of MS patients, but its exact frequency is unknown.
Serious complications such as dehydration, malnutrition and aspiration may occur as a consequence of dysphagia, potentially leading to breathing difficulties, fatigue and pneumonia, respectively. Dysphagia also may affect patients’ quality of life, their pleasure in engaging in social events, and their relationships with family and friends.
Despite its relevance, no studies have addressed suggestive symptoms of dysphagia in MS patients, as well as its affect on quality of life.
Aiming to address these questions, a research team at The University of Sydney, Australia, determined the frequency of dysphagia in adults with MS using the 10-item Eating Assessment Tool (EAT-10) and the swallowing quality of life questionnaire (SWALQOL) to assess how swallowing problems affect patients’ quality of life.
EAT-10 is a self-assessment tool to identify the risk of dysphagia, providing information on function, emotional impact, and physical symptoms. Each of the 10 items is ranked from 0 (no problem) to 4 (severe problem). A score of three or higher suggests dysphagia.
In turn, SWALQOL includes 44 questions on 10 quality of life concepts, including burden, symptoms and frequency of dysphagia, eating duration, food selection, mental health, fear related to eating, and social concerns related to swallowing difficulties.
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