Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients may have swallowing difficulties as a consequence of this progressive illness. Swallowing difficulties can be mild or severe depending on the stage of progression of Multiple Sclerosis. A multiple sclerosis patient more than likely has swallowing problems if they have any of the following symptoms: choking and coughing during meals, feeling as if food is stuck in your throat or recurrent infections in their lungs (from food and liquid passing into the lungs instead of stomach).
Helpful tips for Multiple Sclerosis patients
To make it more comfortable and easier for the multiple sclerosis patient to swallow try some of the following tips:
Don’t speak while you are eating
Focus on chewing your food and ignore any distractions around you
Eat slowly and eat only small amounts – food that is cut up
Other helpful tips:
Remain sitting upright or even standing for the hour after your meal.
Try different textures and temperatures of food, you might find something is easier to swallow than another
Drink lots of fluids or suck on ice chips between meals to increase the frequency of swallowing
Complications of Swallowing Difficulties in Multiple Sclerosis
Swallowing problems are not only uncomfortable for the individual with Multiple Sclerosis but can be quite dangerous too. Swallowing difficulties can cause the patient to choke from trying to swallow too much at once or food getting caught in their throat. Developing pneumonia is another risk factor associated with poor swallowing ability as food and liquid may ‘go down the wrong way’ into the trachea and lungs which can cause abscesses and pneumonia. A further consequence of this is that the food never actually reaches the stomach often leading to dehydration and/or malnutrition in the MS patient. These associated dangers and complications outline the importance of seeking professional treatment to avoid these dangers occurring.
If any of the symptoms or swallowing difficulties outlined above arise professional treatment with a Speech and Language Therapist should be sought.