What is Dysarthria?

Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder that causes impaired movement of the muscles used for speech, including the tongue, lips, vocal cords, and diaphragm. Some of the more common causes involve other medical conditions such as brain injury, stroke, ALS, cerebral palsy, Lyme disease, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease, and brain tumors. It may also be the result of illnesses that create throat or tongue muscle weakness or facial paralysis. Additionally, some sedatives and narcotics can be responsible for dysarthria.

Since the condition causes significant difficulties in communication, patients often encounter social difficulty. Relationships with friends and family can be affected, and some people may begin to avoid social situations altogether. This social isolation can lead to depression.

What are the Symptoms of Dysarthria?

Symptoms will vary depending on what is causing the dysarthria and what type it is.

Symptoms include

  • Slow speech
  • Slurred speech
  • Rapid speech
  • Speaking too loudly
  • Speaking in a whisper
  • Strained, nasal, or raspy voice
  • Uneven speech volume
  • Abnormal speech rhythm
  • Trouble moving the facial muscles or tongue
  • Monotone speech

In some cases, dysarthria might be an indication of a different, more serious underlying condition. It is recommended that people who encounter unexplained or sudden changes in their speech make an appointment to see their doctor.

Dysarthria Causes

In dysarthria, the inability to control facial expressions or to speak is caused by the presentation of other medical conditions. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, is one such illness that can cause dysarthria. Additionally, brain dysfunctions resulting from tumors or cranial injuries can produce similar tendencies for a patient to experience dysarthria. Guillain-Barre syndrome, Huntington’s disease, Lyme disease, Myasthenia gravis, Parkinson’s disease, and Wilson’s disease all make the patient susceptible to developing dysarthria too.

There are many more illnesses that can induce this condition. Equally capable of causing dysarthria are some narcotics and prescription medications, such as sedatives. In the event that an individual experiences speech problems, he or she should seek out a speech and language pathologist. These specialists are specifically trained in identifying conditions that can affect speech and language.

How is Dysarthria Treated?

Treatment for dysarthria is different from case to case depending on severity of symptoms and the cause.

Treatment includes

If medications are responsible, discontinuing or changing the dosage can help. In many other cases, language and speech therapy can be used to improve speech. Patients will be taught how to strengthen speech muscles, adjust speech rate, improve articulation, and help family members learn to communicate with the affected individual. If therapy does not work, alternative and augmentative communication systems can prove beneficial, as they include the use of gestures, visual cues, and computer technology.

Dysarthria Prevention

Because dysarthria is often the result of an underlying condition, it can’t always be prevented. There are some actions people can take to limit the risks of developing the condition, however. By maintaining tight control over high blood pressure and diabetes, patients can limit their susceptibility to dysarthria and some of the conditions that contribute to its development. For the same reasons, individuals should also limit their intake of cholesterol, saturated fat and salt.

Additionally cigarette smoking, drug abuse, and alcohol drinking can greatly increase one’s risk to developing many of the conditions responsible for inducing episodes of dysarthria. Doctors recommend reducing, or, if possible, eliminating the dependency on these habits.

Frequent exercise, at least 30 minutes per day, is also recommended and will help maintain a healthy weight, which can also affect the likelihood of developing conditions related to dysarthria. Early warning signs that someone may be developing dysarthria are uncontrolled drooling and difficulty with chewing or swallowing. If it becomes difficult for the individual to move his lips, tongue, or jaw, a doctor should be consulted immediately.

Last Reviewed:
September 20, 2016
Last Updated:
December 15, 2017