Dysarthria is a speech disorder. It differs from aphasia, which is a language disorder.
Mouth and Throat
This condition can be caused by not being able to control and coordinate the muscles that you use to talk. This can result from:
- Brain tumor or brain trauma
- Conditions that paralyze the face or cause weakness, such as Bell’s palsy
- Degenerative brain disease, such as:
Neuromuscular disease, such as:
- Cerebral palsy
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscular dystrophy
- Myasthenia gravis
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Surgery or weakness on the tongue
- Structural problems, such as not wearing your dentures
- Side effects of medications that act on the central nervous system
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 of dysarthria include:
Speech that sounds:
- Hoarse, breathy
- Slow or fast and mumbling
- Soft like whispering
- Suddenly loud
- Difficulty chewing and swallowing
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.
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
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.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Heart and Stroke Foundation
Speech-Language and Audiology Canada
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.
Last reviewed December 2014 by Rimas Lukas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.