Your Health

Dysarthria

Definition

Dysarthria is a speech disorder. It differs from aphasia , which is a language disorder.
Mouth and Throat
Mouth Throat
Dysarthria may arise from problems with the muscles in the mouth, throat, and respiratory system, as well as other causes.
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Causes

This condition can be caused by not being able to control and coordinate the muscles that you use to talk. This can result from:

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your chance of developing dysarthria include:
  • Being at high risk for stroke
  • Having a degenerative brain disease
  • Having a neuromuscular disease
  • Abusing alcohol or drugs
  • Increased age along with poor health

Symptoms

Symptoms of dysarthria include:
  • Speech that sounds:
    • Slurred
    • Hoarse, breathy
    • Slow or fast and mumbling
    • Soft like whispering
    • Strained
    • Nasal
    • Suddenly loud
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty chewing and swallowing

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done, paying close attention to your:
  • Ability to move your lips, tongue, and face
  • Production of air flow for speech
Images may be taken of your brain. This can be done with:
  • MRI scan
  • CT scan
  • PET scan
  • Single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scan
  • Swallowing study, which may include x-rays and drinking a special liquid
The electrical function of your nerves may be tested. This can be done with a nerve conduction study.
The electrical function of your muscles may be tested. This can be done with a electromyogram.

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
  • Addressing the cause of dysarthria, such as stroke
  • Working with a speech therapist, which may include focusing on:
    • Doing exercises to loosen the mouth area and strengthening the muscles for speech
    • Improving how you articulate
    • Learning how to speak slower
    • Learning how to breath better so you can speak louder
    • Working with family members to help them communicate with you
    • Learning how to use communication devices
    • Safe chewing or swallowing techniques, if needed
  • Changing medication

Prevention

To help reduce your chance of getting dysarthria, take the following steps:
  • Reduce your risk of stroke:
    • Exercise regularly.
    • Eat more fruits and vegetables . Limit dietary salt and fat .
    • If you smoke, talk to your doctor about ways to quit .
    • Maintain a healthy weight .
    • Check your blood pressure often.
    • Take a low dose of aspirin if your doctor recommends it.
    • Keep chronic conditions under control.
    • Call for medical help right away if you have symptoms of a stroke, even if symptoms stop.
  • If you have an alcohol or drug problem, get help.
  • Ask your doctor if medications you are taking could lead to dysarthria.

RESOURCES

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association http://www.asha.org

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke http://www.ninds.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Heart and Stroke Foundation http://www.heartandstroke.com

Speech-Language and Audiology Canada http://sac-oac.ca

References

Dysarthria. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: http://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/dysarthria.htm. Accessed November 23, 2014.

McGhee H, Cornwell P, et al. Treating dysarthria following traumatic brain injury: Investigating the benefits of commencing treatment during post-traumatic amnesia in two participants. Brain Injury. 2006;20:1307-1319.

Preventing a stroke. National Stroke Association website. Available at: http://www.stroke.org/understand-stroke/preventing-stroke. Accessed November 23, 2014.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: Rimas Lukas, MD
  • Review Date: 11/2014 -
  • Update Date: 02/13/2014 -