So today, 30 May 2019, marks World MS Day!
What is MS?
“Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system).
In MS, the immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibres and causes communication problems between your brain and the rest of your body. Eventually, the disease can cause permanent damage or deterioration of the nerves.”
MS and the role of the Speech Therapist:
As speech therapists, we are often involved in the management of individuals with MS. Early detection is crucial in the management of MS and often individuals require a team of professionals (e.g. Physiotherapist, Occupational Therapist, Dietician, Neurologist, etc.) to assist them in this journey. Some of the responsibilities of the Speech Therapist include:
- Assessment and management of swallowing difficulties. Individuals with MS often have swallowing difficulties (dysphagia) as a result of the attack on the myelin sheath which affects the communication between your brain and muscles. Individuals with MS should have regular swallowing assessments as the disorder is progressive so one’s swallowing will deteriorate too. Some individuals with MS often require a feeding tube in the later stages of the disorder. We also work closely with a Dietician to modify the foods that these individuals eat and can tolerate.
- Speech therapists are also required to assess, manage and treat one’s speech and voice difficulties. Symptoms include “… slurred speech, unclear articulation of words, difficulty controlling loudness (dysarthria), and changes in voice quality such as hoarseness, breathiness, and nasality (dysphonia). These disorders are caused by damaged nerves in areas that control these functions. Speech and voice problems are most likely to occur during MS relapses or periods of extreme fatigue.” (Sheehan, 2019). The Speech Therapists use a variety of technique and interventions to assist with these difficulties.
- Individuals with MS may also present with cognitive difficulties which may require intervention and further assistance from a Speech Therapist.
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). (2019). Multiple Sclerosis. Obtained from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/multiple-sclerosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20350269
Sheehan, Jan. (2019). How Speech Therapy Helps People With MS.
Obtained from: https://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/living-better-with-ms-guide/how-speech-therapy-helps/