Friday, 15 August 2014


The proper name for difficulty swallowing, or the medical term is 'Dysphagia'.  Actually I think it is more properly called 'Oropharyngeal dysphagia'.

Apparently, quite a lot of people with MS, it is estimated perhaps a third of people with MS, probably experience some changes in their swallowing at some time, experience swallowing difficulties, and find it difficult to swallow: 'Dysphagia'.  And it isn't just difficulty swallowing, but difficulties with other associated activities such as eating and drinking and even speaking and forming sentences: 'Dysphasia'.

So, this is another thing that I have discovered that MS can cause difficulties with, swallowing difficulties. And just like any other symptom of MS, swallowing difficulties may come and go.  Changes in swallowing can occur or happen during a relapse, and then improve, or disappear completely.  For others, difficulty swallowing may simply be a symptom that develops over time as the condition progresses.  You don't really notice it at first, don't notice that you are struggling or perhaps dribbling, but then all of a sudden you do.  You do notice.  You notice that you are dribbling.

The MS Society has found that, "Between 30 and 40 per cent of people with MS experience difficulties with swallowing at some time although for some people changes are so small that they are hardly aware of them."Dysphagia can also be made worse by lack of saliva or dry mouth, and it is known that some medications used to control MS symptoms can cause having a dry mouth as a side-effect.  So, that is helpful.

I have recently become aware that I experience difficulties with swallowing.  This feels really strange, when you have to think, have to concentrate on doing something as automatic as swallowing.  You do not have to be taught how to swallow, you are just born with the ability, it just happens, you just can, you just do.  So it comes as something as a shock as you take a mouthful of tea or coffee or water or juice, and then you think 'now what?'  What do I do now? You have to try and remind yourself to swallow it.  It is there is your mouth, but you have to concentrate to actually do something with it, to swallow it.  Surely swallowing should be second nature? Believe me it isn't.

Swallowing problems ('Dysphagia')might include difficulties with other associated activities such as eating and drinking and with speaking ('Dysphasia'):

Swallowing problems ('Dysphagia')might include difficulties with other associated activities such as eating and drinking and with speaking ('Dysphasia'):
  • Changes in speech can go hand in hand with small changes in swallowing
  • Problems chewing
  • Coughing and spluttering during and after eating
  • Excessive saliva, which may cause dribbling
There are different forms of 'Dysphagia' depending on whether the difficulty with swallowing occurs in the mouth or throat, and there are various ways that it can be treated, these include:
  • swallowing therapy
  • dietary changes 
  • feeding tubes
A Speech and Language Therapist (SLT) may be consulted to suggest exercises that can help, or a Dietitian may be consulted for advice about changing your diet, to possibly advise about softer foods or thickened fluids that may be easier to eat and drink.  There are therefore simple changes that you can make which may make a difference.  These include:
  • Ensuring good posture when eating and drinking
  • Ensuring that you are relaxed
  • Eating slowly and chewing well

A few people have suggested drinking through a straw, and I have found that this does seem to help a little bit, although it has to be said that this isn't always ideal, but I am finding and realizing that very little to do with MS is ideal, you just kind of get on with it, and learn how to deal with it. You adapt.  You learn not to worry if you dribble.  You learn, you have to.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank You for always being so supportive and positive and encouraging x

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