Understanding the Causes of Dysarthria

Dysarthria is a condition where the facial muscles used in speech are weak or hard to control. It is generally associated with slow or slurred speech that others may find hard to understand. Affected speech can also present as monotone, too quiet, strained in tone, overly rapid, or uneven in rhythm. Dysarthria can be deeply frustrating for patients who want to communicate clearly with the world around them, and it can originate from several causes. Before a proper plan for treatment can be created and followed, the exact cause for the condition must be figured out.

Brain Tumor or Injury

Dysarthria can be a sign of a developing tumor in the brain, a stroke, or it can be a reaction from an injury to the head. If a stroke is suspected, and the dysarthria has developed suddenly, the sufferer should immediately be rushed to the nearest hospital.

Imaging tests, such as an MRI, should be performed to rule out tumors or other problems with the brain's structure when dysarthria develops without an obvious cause.

In some cases, dysarthria is a side effect from surgery on the head and neck.

Cerebral Palsy 

Cerebral palsy is an incurable disability most often associated with issues of movement, but it can also affect speech. Sometimes it is so slight as to be barely noticed at all, but it can also be quite severe and accompanied by difficulties with controlling the mouth for eating purposes as well.

While the conditions that present under the umbrella term of cerebral palsy are permanent, and some of its symptoms are progressive while others are not, dysarthria is one that tends to be stable. It can be helped by speech therapy and a supportive social system that works to listen better.

Lyme Disease 

Rarely, dysarthria comes about as a symptom of chronic, untreated Lyme disease in its late stages. If it is part of a series of issues related to severe Lyme disease, it will be accompanied by other serious neurological problems as well. 

Medications 

Narcotics and sedatives can cause dysarthria. When prescription medications are implicated in a case of dysarthria, the medication regiment should be changed or discontinued if it is feasible under the guidance of the patient's physician. If drugs are being abused, the patient should seek support in stopping.

Some of the other conditions associated with dysarthria include Parkinson's disease, ALS, multiple sclerosis, and intracranial hypertension. Because the underlying issue causing dysarthria may be extremely serious and degenerative, this symptom should always be examined and taken seriously.

Dysarthria can harm a patient's social life and have adverse effects on mental health, so it is very important to diagnose its cause and take care of it appropriately. It is something that will most often be helped best by first treating the underlying illness or condition, but even if the dysarthria is not part of a reversible or treatable condition, there are other options to help a patient with this problem such as speech therapy that are immensely helpful.

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Last Reviewed:
December 20, 2016
Last Updated:
October 17, 2017
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