Dysarthria is a speech disorder. It differs from aphasia, which is a language disorder.
Dysarthria may arise from problems with the muscles in the mouth, throat, and respiratory system, as well as other causes.
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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 traumatic brain injury
- Conditions that paralyze the face or cause weakness, such as Bell palsy
- Degenerative brain disease, such as:
- Neuromuscular disease, such as:
- 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 dysarthria include:
- High risk for stroke
- Degenerative brain disease
- Neuromuscular disease
- Alcohol or drug use disorder
- Increased age along with poor health
Dysarthria may cause:
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 (EMG).
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 dysarthria:
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, ask your doctor about rehabilitation programs.
- 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 9, 2017.
McGhee H, Cornwell P, Addis P, Jarman C. Treating dysarthria following traumatic brain injury: Investigating the benefits of commencing treatment during post-traumatic amnesia in two participants. Brain Inj. 2006;20(12):1307-1319.
Preventing a stroke. National Stroke Association website. Available at: http://www.stroke.org/understand-stroke/preventing-stroke. Accessed November 9, 2017.
Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD Last Updated: 12/20/2014