Dysarthria is a speech disorder that affects the muscles of the face, which become weak, move slowly, or do not move. It differs from aphasia, which is a language disorder.
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
- 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 on the tongue
- Weakness of 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
- Being older and having poor health
Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors.
Symptoms of dysarthria include:
Speech that sounds:
- Hoarse, breathy
- Slow or fast and mumbling
- Soft like whispering
- Suddenly loud
- Difficulty chewing and swallowing
Your doctor will ask 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 or muscles may be tested. This can be done with:
- Nerve conduction study
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 language pathologist, which may focus on:
- Doing exercises to loosen the mouth area and strengthen 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 medicine
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, 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 911 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 medicines you are taking could lead to dysarthria.