May 28 is World MS Day. MS stands for multiple sclerosis. The term ‘Sclerosis’ is a Greek word that translates to mean ‘hard tissue or scar’. Multiple sclerosis is an inflammatory disease. The nerves of the brain and the spinal cord are damaged by a person’s own immune system. This is why MS is known as an autoimmune disease.
How can Multiple Sclerosis affect speech?
It is estimated that 41-51% of people with MS will experience speech difficulties at some point. Speech is a complex process that is controlled by areas in the brain, particularly the brainstem. When the areas controlling speech in the brain are damaged by MS, it can lead to changes in a person’s ability to speak. These difficulties can be mild or severe. Difficulties with speech in MS may be transient, coming and going, often with no predictable pattern. When these exacerbations occur, symptoms often worsen then gradually improve. Every case of MS is different, so whether speech problems progressively worsen will depend on the course of the disease for each person.
Speech disorders in MS may be termed ‘dysarthria’ or if it is a problem with the voice, ‘dysphonia’.
- Motor speech disorders
- Change in articulation: speech becomes slurred
- Change in volume control: voice becomes too quiet or loud
- Change in emphasis: speech rate is reduced or broken up with inappropriate pauses. A person may have difficulty putting the appropriate stress (emphasis) on words or varying pitches and loudness for emphasis
- Disorders of voice quality
- Harshness, breathiness or hoarseness in vocal quality associated with changes in the movement of the vocal folds.
- Change in pitch control from tremor or spasticity in vocal cords. This can lead to pitch breaks or a monotone quality (lack of expression in the voice – or ‘flat’)
- Weakness or lack of coordination in soft palate can lead to hypernasality.
Management and therapy options are available for people with Multiple Sclerosis who have speech difficulties. Please contact our clinic for further information about therapy options. Click here.
To read more about MS and what causes MS click here.