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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Swallowing Problems, and how to Cope

I, like many with multiple sclerosis, have swallowing problems.  Sometimes they are pretty serious, and other times they are mild.  When they get serious, I have been known to aspirate food, which leads to aspiration pneumonia, which is very bad.  Aspiration pneumonia feels like a very heavy, and painful feeling in my chest.  I get lightheaded, and dizzy when I stand, and have trouble catching my breath.  If you have ms, and start experiencing any of those symptoms especially after some difficulty swallowing, you should see a medical doctor immediately.  When I go to see my doctor, he usually listens to my chest, and when he suspects that I have pneumonia, he orders an xray of my chest.  

For a long time, when I tried to swallow food, it would get stuck in my throat, and water would come shooting out of my nose.  I became very dehydrated and hopeless.   Finally at Winchester Medical Center, where I did a barium swallow study, one of the nurses taught me some tricks to help me swallow and be able to eat normally again.  
1.  Tilt your chin toward your chest when swallowing food.  This really did help me
2. There is something called "thick it" that most pharmacies sell.  It can be mixed with water, milk, or juice.  The thicker texture helps prevent choking on thinner liquids.  This also helped me quite a bit with the aspiration problem.  
3. If you have trouble swallowing your pills or vitamins, check with your doctor to see which ones are safe to crush up and put in applesauce to swallow.  This has saved me several times when my medications simply would not go down my throat.  
4. Drinking from a straw really helps.  I always use a straw now, and forgot to add it to this blog at first, but one of my friends reminded me.  Thanks Mike!
5. Another thing that Mike reminded me of: you see if your medications come in liquid form.  Many do. 

I hope I was able to help anyone out there going through some of the same problems.  

Today's random picture from my gallery.  I took this one in my garden