March marks Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month; a month dedicated to increasing awareness and support for a diagnosis that impacts the central nervous system.
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, multiple sclerosis or MS is a disease that damages nerve fibers within the central nervous system; this damage then makes it difficult for the brain to send messages within itself and also to the rest of the body.¹ It impacts an estimated 1 million people within the United States and these individuals are usually diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50.¹
While the cause of MS is unknown, there are several symptoms that are common. Some common symptoms of MS include increased fatigue, gait abnormalities, and cognitive impairment. There are also symptoms that are less common that impact speech production and swallowing.²
In order to create voice production and speech sounds, our brains must send signals to the muscles of our vocal cords, as well as our lips and tongue. The brain also controls the muscles in our mouth and throat to chew, swallow, and protect our airways. Some common symptoms related to speech and swallowing include:
- Speech Impairments: Speech difficulties can include the slurring of speech or decreased accuracy with speech sounds, as well as dysphonia or decreased loudness. This can impact 25-40% of individuals.
- Swallowing Impairments: Swallowing difficulties can include increased difficulty with chewing, loss of liquids or solids from the lips, coughing on liquids, as well as the feeling of pressure in the chest after swallowing. Swallowing difficulties are important to recognize right away as increased difficulty could lead to potential aspiration and result in pneumonia.
If you or someone you love has or may have multiple sclerosis, it is important that you discuss this with your health care provider. Live Your Life can provide therapy to address speech difficulties and swallowing impairments that are related to this disease.
¹National MS Society. https://www.nationalmssociety.org/ Accessed March 14th, 2020.
²MS Symptoms. https://www.nationalmssociety.org/Symptoms-Diagnosis/MS-Symptoms. Accessed March 14th, 2020.