As part of National Dysphagia Awareness Month this June, Bracco Diagnostics is acknowledging speech language pathologists for their support in developing Varibar (barium sulfate) products — imaging agents used to assess swallowing disorders, a problem common among multiple sclerosis (MS) patients.
One in 25 adults is estimated to experience dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, in the U.S. each year, even though the true prevalence is not fully known and often underestimated, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).
Dysphagia is more common in older people, and can be caused by a number of conditions, including MS, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, traumatic brain injury, dementia, and treatment of head and neck cancer or trauma.
Permanent and transitory swallowing disorders occur frequently in patients with MS. In fact, dysphagia can occur early in disease, even before a person starts to experience characteristic symptoms of MS.
“It is, therefore, important for the MS patient’s primary care physician to refer the patient with multiple sclerosis — with or without a complaint of swallowing problems — for a full workup of his or her oropharyngeal and esophageal swallowing function as soon as the patient has a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, in order to establish a baseline swallow physiology against which to compare any future changes,” the National MS Society recommends.
Dysphagia can result in several severe complications, such as malnutrition, dehydration, choking, and aspiration pneumonia, which could exacerbate other MS-related symptoms, or even be fatal, if left untreated.
Aspiration pneumonia is caused by inhalation of oral secretions, liquid, or food containing disease-causing bacteria. It is associated with about 10% in-hospital mortality and high hospitalization costs.
Early recognition and treatment of dysphagia can enhance the comfort, safety, and optimal nutritional status of affected patients.
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