Language impairment has only recently begun to be considered a clinical manifestation of MS. A decline in language abilities exists regardless of clinical or demographic characteristics, and is associated with lower health-related quality of life (HRQoL). Frontline healthcare providers need to be aware of this, and should make timely referrals to speech pathologists for further evaluation and support.
A new study at the University of Sydney has varified the prevalence and nature of self-reported language impairment in MS, using a validated MS-specific patient-reported outcome measure, and determined the association with hHRQoL and demographic and clinical variables (El-Wahsh S, et al., Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2019 Dec 16;39:101896. doi: 10.1016/j.msard.2019.101896).
In this cross-sectional study, 160 persons with MS completed the language items of the Speech pathology-specific questionnaire for persons with MS (SMS) and the 12-Item Short Form Survey (SF-12) tool. Participants were recruited internationally through professional MS bodies and support groups, and all completed the questionnaires online.
75% of persons with MS in this sample self-reported a language impairment. Of the total sample, 65.7% reported difficulty with word retrieval, 53.8% reported difficulty with expressive language, 49.4% reported difficulty with confrontational naming, and 40.6% reported difficulty with receptive language in spoken discourse. Statistical analyses revealed that age, sex, educational status, country of residence, disease duration, age at time of diagnosis, MS subtype, and medication management, were not associated with the prevalence of self-reported language impairment. Participants with self-reported language impairment had lower HRQoL than those without language impairment, scoring lower on both the SF-12 mental and physical component summary scores, with medium to large effect sizes (Cohen's d = 0.66 - 0.83). Participants with self-reported language impairment had higher rates of unemployment than those without language impairment (χ2 = 18.2; p < 0.001).
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