What Is Dysarthria?
Dysarthria is a motor-speech disorder. It
causes the inability to coordinate or control the muscles in the face, mouth,
and respiratory system. It usually occurs when a brain injury causes the
muscles to become weak or immobile.
People with dysarthria can’t control the
muscles used to make normal sounds. Speech becomes slow or slurred. It becomes
difficult for others to understand what the person is trying to say.
Dysarthria can affect many aspects of speech.
You may lose the ability to pronounce sounds correctly or speak at a normal
level. You may also be unable to control the quality, intonation, and pace at
which you speak. Individual speech difficulties will vary depending on the
location and severity of the brain injury.
What Causes Dysarthria?
Many conditions can cause dysarthria. Some common
- brain tumor
- brain trauma
- amyotrophic lateral
- Bell’s palsy
- cerebral palsy
- Guillain-Barre syndrome
- Huntington’s disease
- lyme disease
- multiple sclerosis
- muscular dystrophy
- myasthenia gravis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Wilson’s disease
- surgery or weakness of the
- medications such as
narcotics or tranquilizers that affect the central nervous system
Who Is at Risk for Dysarthria?
Dysarthria can affect both
children and adults. You are at an increased risk for developing dysarthria if
at a high risk for stroke
a degenerative brain disease
a neuromuscular disease
alcohol or drugs
in poor health
What Are the Symptoms of Dysarthria?
of dysarthria range from mild to severe. Location and severity of the brain
injury or the underlying condition influence the type of symptoms. Typical
- slurred speech
- slow speech
- speaking softly or in a
- rapid speech
- voice quality that is
nasal, strained, or hoarse
- abnormal, varying rhythm of
- changing speech volume
- difficulty controlling
- difficulty chewing,
swallowing, and controlling the tongue
How Is Dysarthria Diagnosed?
tests can identify and diagnose the cause of dysarthria.
speech-language pathologist will assess the severity of the disorder. A
pathologist will study how you speak and assess how you move your lips, tongue,
and facial muscles. Aspects of your voice quality and breathing will also factor
into the study.
your initial examination, your doctor may request any of the following tests:
- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT)
scan to study a detailed image of your brain, head, and neck
- electroencephalogram (EEG) to measure electrical activity in
(EMG) to measure the electrical
impulses of muscles at rest and during contraction
- nerve conduction study (NCS) to measure the strength and speed with which the nerves send
- laboratory blood and urine tests to diagnose an infection or
other disease that may be causing the dysarthria
- lumbar puncture (spinal tap) to diagnose infections, central
nervous system disorders, and brain cancers
- brain biopsy to examine a piece of a brain tumor
- swallowing study
- neuropsychological tests to measure your cognitive skills and
your ability to comprehend speech, reading, and writing
How Is Dysarthria Treated?
If your symptoms of dysarthria are
related to an underlying condition, your physician will treat that disorder
If your symptoms are
related to the side effects of specific medications, your doctor will work to
find alternative medications. Your doctor also may prescribe medication to
treat underlying conditions.
doctor may recommend surgery if your dysarthria is caused by an operable tumor
or lesion in your brain or spinal cord, for example.
A speech language pathologist may be able to help you
improve your communication abilities. A speech language pathologist will create
a custom treatment plan to address your specific condition. You will likely
- loosen mouth muscles to allow for control of your mouth, lips,
- strengthen your speech muscles
- slow the rate at which you speak
- improve breathing to allow for louder speech
- improve articulation for clearer speech
- practice group communication skills
- test skills in real-life situations
What Is the Outlook for Dysarthria?
with a speech language pathologist can help you improve your intelligibility
and communication function. The American-Speech-Language Hearing Association reports
that about two-thirds of adults with central nervous system disease increased
their speech skills after intervention by a speech language pathologist (ASHA).
is not always preventable because it is caused by numerous conditions. But you
can reduce your risk factors with these steps:
- Control high blood pressure.
- Limit cholesterol, saturated fat, and
salt in your diet.
- Stop smoking.
- Control diabetes.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle by
- Keep weight at a healthy level.
- Increase the amount of fruits and
vegetables in your diet.
- Treat obstructive sleep apnea.
- Limit alcohol use.
- Don’t use drugs that aren’t prescribed
for your conditions.