What is dysarthria?
Dysarthria is a condition in which the muscles you use for speech are weak or you have difficulty controlling them. Dysarthria often is characterized by slurred or slow speech that can be difficult to understand.
How common is dysarthria?
There are no known data about the incidence of dysarthria in the general population, because of the broad variety of possible causes. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of dysarthria?
The common symptoms of dysarthria are:
- Slurred speech
- Slow speech
- Inability to speak louder than a whisper or speaking too loudly
- Rapid speech that is difficult to understand
- Nasal, raspy or strained voice
- Uneven or abnormal speech rhythm
- Uneven speech volume
- Monotone speech
- Difficulty moving your tongue or facial muscles
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes dysarthria?
In dysarthria, you may have difficulty moving the muscles in your mouth, face or upper respiratory system that control speech. Conditions that may result in dysarthria include:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease)
- Brain injury
- Brain tumor
- Cerebral palsy
- Guillain-Barre syndrome
- Head injury
- Huntington’s disease
- Lyme disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscular dystrophy
- Myasthenia gravis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Wilson’s disease
Some medications, such as narcotics or sedatives, also can cause dysarthria.
What increases my risk for dysarthria?
There are many risk factors for dysarthria, such as:
- The high risk of stroke;
- The presence of degenerative disease of the brain;
- Neuromuscular diseases;
- Substance abuse;
- Advanced age, along with poor health.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is dysarthria diagnosed?
A speech-language pathologist might evaluate your speech to help determine the type of dysarthria you have. This can be helpful to the neurologist, who will look for the underlying cause.
Besides conducting a physical exam, your doctor might order tests, including:
- Imaging tests. Imaging tests, such as an MRI or CT scan, create detailed images of your brain, head and neck that may help identify the cause of your speech problem.
- Brain and nerve studies. These can help pinpoint the source of your symptoms. An electroencephalogram measures electrical activity in your brain. An electromyogram evaluates electrical activity in your nerves as they transmit messages to your muscles. Nerve conduction studies measure the strength and speed of the electrical signals as they travel through your nerves to your muscles.
- Blood and urine tests. These can help determine if an infectious or inflammatory disease is causing your symptoms.
- Lumbar puncture (spinal tap). In this procedure, a doctor or nurse inserts a needle in your lower back to remove a small sample of cerebrospinal fluid for laboratory testing. A lumbar puncture can help diagnose serious infections, disorders of the central nervous system, and cancers of the brain or spinal cord.
- Brain biopsy. If a brain tumor is suspected, your doctor may remove a small sample of your brain tissue to test.
- Neuropsychological tests. These measure your thinking (cognitive) skills, your ability to understand speech, your ability to understand reading and writing, and other skills. Dysarthria doesn’t affect your cognitive skills and understanding of speech and writing, but an underlying condition can.
How is dysarthria treated?
Speech-language therapy is the only treatment for dysarthria. How much your speech may improve depends on the condition that caused it.
Your therapist will teach you:
- Exercises to strengthen the muscles of your mouth and jaw
- Ways to speak more clearly, such as talking more slowly or pausing to catch your breath
- How to control your breath to make your voice louder
- How to use devices like an amplifier to improve the sound of your voice
Your therapist also will give you tips to help you communicate, such as:
- Carry a notebook or smartphone with you. If someone doesn’t understand you, write or type what you want to say.
- Make sure you have the other person’s attention.
- Speak slowly.
- Talk face to face if you can. The other person will be able to understand you better if they can see your mouth move.
- Try not to talk in noisy places, like at a restaurant or party. Turn down music or the TV before you speak, or go outside.
- Use facial expressions or hand gestures to get your point across.
- Use short phrases and words that are easier for you to say.
The therapist will work with your family to help them understand you better. She may suggest that they:
- Ask if they don’t understand something
- Give you time to finish what you have to say
- Look at you when they talk with you
- Repeat the part they understood so you don’t have to say the whole thing again
- Try not to finish your sentences for you
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage dysarthria?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with dysarthria:
- Speak slowly. Listeners may understand you better with additional time to think about what they’re hearing.
- Start small. Introduce your topic with one word or a short phrase before speaking in longer sentences.
- Gauge understanding. Ask listeners to confirm that they know what you’re saying.
- If you’re tired, keep it short. Fatigue can make your speech more difficult to understand.
- Have a backup. Writing messages can be helpful. Type messages on a cellphone or hand-held device, or carry a pencil and small pad of paper with you.
- Use shortcuts. Create drawings and diagrams or use photos during conversations, so you don’t have to say everything. Gesturing or pointing to an object also can help convey your message.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Dysarthria. http://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/dysarthria/#common. Accessed July 14, 2017.
Dysarthria. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dysarthria/basics/definition/con-20035008. Accessed July 14, 2017.
What Is Dysarthria? http://www.webmd.com/brain/dysarthria-speech#2. Accessed July 14, 2017.
Review Date: July 14, 2017 | Last Modified: July 14, 2017