Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological disorder that affects your central nervous system, causing an array of symptoms including numbness, mood changes, memory problems, fatigue, pain, and problems with muscle control. About a million Americans suffer from MS, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and of those, more than 40% have problems with swallowing (dysphagia).
While MS has no cure, there are therapies that can help people manage their symptoms. For people suffering from dysphagia, swallow therapy may help.
The team at ENT Specialists is skilled in swallow therapy techniques, helping patients in Salt Lake City, Murray, Draper, Tooele, and West Jordan, Utah, manage symptoms associated with MS. In this post, learn how MS can affect swallowing and how swallow therapy could help you.
Basic facts about MS-Induced dysphagia
While researchers don’t know the exact cause of MS, they do know that an abnormal immune response is involved. In people who have MS, the immune system attacks the sheath of myelin fibers that surrounds nerves. This sheath insulates each nerve and promotes normal nerve-to-nerve communication. In MS, the sheath is damaged and breaks down, interfering with nerve signaling and causing a wide array of symptoms.
In MS-induced dysphagia, the immune system attacks the nerves that control the muscles we use for swallowing. Swallowing is a complex process involving complex coordination among several muscles. When that process is disrupted, you can have problems swallowing both solids and liquids.
People who have dysphagia typically experience symptoms like:
- Choking or coughing when eating or drinking
- Bringing food back up through the mouth or nose
- The sensation of food “sticking” in the throat
- Aspirating food or liquid into the lungs
Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and they may become worse over time.
For people suffering from dysphagia, the increased risks of choking and aspiration present serious health dangers. At the same time, dysphagia can cause emotional distress, including frustration and embarrassment that can take a major toll on your life and cause significant anxiety.
How swallow therapy can help
Swallow therapy is a patient-centered therapy that uses a variety of special exercises and maneuvers designed to strengthen and coordinate the muscles involved in swallowing and improve swallowing “technique.” By optimizing swallow activity, therapy reduces the risk of aspiration and the serious complications it can cause.
In addition to exercises, swallow therapy focuses on lifestyle tips and techniques to improve swallow function and your overall quality of life. These tips could include things like limiting foods that cause difficulty and changing your position while eating and for a brief period afterward.
Since swallow therapy can improve your confidence and comfort when eating, it also can help you feel at ease when sharing meals with friends or family members. Swallow therapy can also be combined with counseling to help you manage anxiety and other issues associated with MS and its management.
Learn how swallow therapy can help you
Swallow therapy is highly customizable, which means we can tailor a treatment plan that focuses on your specific needs and goals. To find out how swallow therapy can help you manage your MS symptoms, book an appointment online or over the phone with the team at ENT Specialists today.