MND can cause saliva management issues and weakness in the muscles around the throat, tongue and mouth making it hard to speak, swallow and chew..

Communication

People with MND may experience breathlessness, hoarseness, a weak voice or decreased volume. Some people will experience muscle weakness around the face, throat and tongue, which can cause changes to the way a person’s speech sounds (dysarthric), while others may no longer be able to communicate verbally (anarthric).

A speech pathologist and occupational therapist can prescribe communication aids and assistive technology. You can access communication aids and equipment from FlexEquip, a service of MND NSW. 

Swallowing

Difficulty swallowing is known as dysphagia, and it is a common symptom of MND. Dysphagia can cause dribbling due to poor lip seal and it can cause coughing, choking and the sensation of having food stuck in your throat. Physical impacts include weight loss, malnutrition and dehydration. People may also experience changes to the way they desire food and their sense of food enjoyment. Participation in social and community events where food and drink are shared can also be impacted.

We recommend being assessed by a speech pathologist and a dietitian soon after diagnosis. If you notice changes to the way you swallow and chew or changes to your saliva, ask for a reassessment as soon as possible. You should also seek advice if you have noticed that it is taking more effort to chew, mealtimes are getting longer or if you are coughing while you are eating.

A speech pathologist, occupational therapist and dietitian can provide advice about food consistency, aids and devices, swallowing techniques and nutritional needs. 

Considering a feeding tube

A feeding tube can enable people to keep hydrated, take medications and maintain weight.

A tube is inserted into the stomach, it is small and discrete and can be covered with clothing. Some people with MND choose to have a feeding tube inserted early and before they experience changes to their speech and swallow. For people with respiratory changes, considering a feeding tube early is recommended as there can be complications with the procedure when respiratory function falls below a certain level.

A feeding tube can be used to meet your needs. Some people continue to eat and drink what they enjoy and take additional supplements or medications through the tube. You can continue to eat and drink as usual with a feeding tube.

A feeding tube, also known as a Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy (PEG) or Radiologically Inserted Gastrostomy (RIG), can be recommended by a Gastroenterologist. A referral to a Gastroenterologist is required from your GP.

Discuss a feeding tube with your GP and respiratory specialist.

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Note: MND can also be known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig's Disease.

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