closeup of woman with MS taking pills

Swallowing

At least a third of people with MS probably experience some changes in their swallowing at some time. Health care professionals might call swallowing difficulties ‘dysphagia’ (diss-fay-jee-ah).

Changes might be so small that they are hard to notice. But even picking these up can help avoid possible complications.

For some people, these changes come and go, or happen during a relapse and never re-appear. But for others, they can be an ongoing issue. Any changes to swallowing can feel strange and worrying, even if they are small changes.

But however your swallowing is affected, there are things you can do to make swallowing as easy, comfortable and safe as possible.

Swallowing problems might include:

  • Changes in your speech (these can go hand in hand with small changes in swallowing)
  • Problems chewing
  • Food sticking in your throat
  • Food or drink coming back up
  • Sluggish movement of food going down, or difficulty moving food back through your mouth
  • Coughing and spluttering during and after eating
  • Taking longer than usual to finish meals
  • Your mouth making too saliva, which may cause dribbling
  • Food or drink 'going down the wrong way' and getting into your lungs ('aspiration')

Keeping an eye on these signs could help you avoid more serious problems that might develop if left unchecked.

So, even if problems are not serious, let your doctor or MS nurse know if you are aware of one or more of these signs.

Because swallowing is a complicated process, with different stages, it can help to find out exactly which part is not working properly.

To find out more, your doctor or MS nurse might refer you to a speech and language therapist. After investigating, a speech and language therapist can recommend ways to manage the problem.

There's more detailed information in our booklet on swallowing difficulties.

Managing swallowing problems

  • Tips for managing swallowing difficulties
  • Risk of choking
  • Treating aspiration (food going down the wrong way)
  • Severe swallowing problems¬†

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