Problems swallowing

 

Swallowing difficulty, or dysphagia, is more common in people with MS than previously thought.  Recent studies indicate that dysphagia occurs in 10 to 55 percent of the MS population. With MS there is the pos­sibility of white matter lesions forming in the areas of the brainstem and cerebellum. 

Lesions in these areas can create problems with the strength, speed, timing, and coordination of the mouth and throat muscles which can impair safe swallowing.  Most often, swallowing problems are mild or temporary and are therefore easily treated.  Patients describe various difficulties related to swallowing, such as problems moving the food from the front to the back of the mouth, trouble getting the swallow started, a sensation of food catching in the throat, and choking or coughing while swallowing. 

It is important to treat swallowing problems to ensure adequate nutrition and hydration and to reduce the risk of aspiration pneumonia (where food or liquid enters the lungs and creates infection).