Swallowing & Speech – 5/18

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When I was diagnosed with MS never in my wildest dreams did I think swallowing would be a symptom. However, swallowing or dysphagia is the result from damage to the nerves controlling the many small muscles in the mouth and throat. In the early stages of MS it may be hard to notice changes in swallowing but it is quite a common symptom. In fact, the Multiple Sclerosis Society says “at least a third” of those with the disorder experience changes of some degree throughout its progression.

Swallowing problems can include “Problems chewing,” “Food sticking in your throat,” “Food or drink coming back up,” and “Coughing and sputtering during and after eating,” among others. If you notice yourself experiencing any of these issues, be sure to speak with your physician.

Personally, I always seem to be choking, coughing or gagging on something. I’ve probably been choking on food and drink for at least 10 years. You know it’s bad when you choke and gag on your own saliva which I do regularly! One of my toughest swallowing problems are fish oil pills. To me, those pills just seem huge!

If you have any swallowing problems try this. Get the food, drink or pill in your mouth. Drink whatever and then bend your head down to your chest and swallow. This works for me and even helps with those big fish oil pills!

Peanuts are another choking problem for me. Don’t ask me why but peanuts give me trouble. I used to love Snickers candy bars. The peanuts in them though has turned my love affair into a real bad breakup! My new favorite is Milky Way candy bars. No peanuts, nice and smooth going down. Popcorn is another one where I tread the water lightly (I’m careful).

I thought I would add this because I think it’s interesting. All through my 20’s and 30’s I could chug a 12 oz. Coke, a beer or a water whenever I wanted. You know what I mean? It’s a hot, humid day and you’re thirsty. You grab your drink and take 4 or 5 gulps in a row to quench your thirst. I don’t know the exact year but I can no longer do that!  Now when I try to gulp down a whole beverage I can only take one gulp at a time. It can be a big gulp but only one. I’m sure my MS is to blame for that.  I need to check with my neurologist next time I see her!

Deterioration of the central nervous system can be caused by Multiple Sclerosis. This can lead to speech problems or disorders known medically as dysarthria. People with MS may slur their speech due to lack of coordination or muscle weakness. I personally have speech problems which are not that bad at this time. Generally, I may slur my words in late afternoons, early evenings or when I’m fatigued. I don’t have to speak with too many people these days so it’s not too noticeable.

I can be talking and without notice my speech will suddenly slur. I may want to say… My name is Scooterjon and I have Multiple Sclerosis but it comes out… Ymemnais Tootershon dna I evha MulltipleeSlerrossis. It just doesn’t make any sense. When I do that the next thing out of my mouth is usually “I used to be able to talk.” That generally makes people chuckle and realize that it’s not too serious. I don’t want people to think I’m having a stroke or something.

Another common disorder is called scanning dysarthia. This “produces speech in which the normal ‘melody’ or speech pattern is disrupted.” The National Multiple Sclerosis Society says a person has abnormally long pauses between words or individual syllables of words.” Multiple Sclerosis may also exhibit what’s known as nasal speech where it sounds like the person speaking “has a cold or nasal obstruction.”