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Dysarthria

Impairment of speech; Slurred speech; Speech disorders - dysarthria

Dysarthria is a condition in which you have difficulty saying words because of problems with the muscles that help you talk.

Causes

In a person with dysarthria, a nerve, brain, or muscle disorder makes it difficult to use or control the muscles of the mouth, tongue, larynx, or vocal cords.

The muscles may be weak or completely paralyzed. Or, it may be hard for the muscles to work together.

Dysarthria may be the result of brain damage due to:

Dysarthria may result from damage to the nerves that supply the muscles that help you talk, or to the muscles themselves from:

Dysarthria may be caused by diseases that affect nerves and muscles (neuromuscular diseases):

Other causes may include:

Symptoms

Depending on its cause, dysarthria may develop slowly or occur suddenly.

People with dysarthria have trouble making certain sounds or words.

Their speech is poorly pronounced (such as slurring), and the rhythm or speed of their speech changes. Other symptoms include:

A person with dysarthria may also drool and have problems chewing or swallowing. It may be hard to move the lips, tongue, or jaw.

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will take a medical history and perform a physical exam. Family and friends may need to help with the medical history.

A procedure called laryngoscopy may be done. During this procedure, a flexible viewing scope is placed in the mouth and throat to view the voice box.

Tests that may be done if the cause of the dysarthria is unknown include:

Treatment

You may need to be referred to a speech and language therapist for testing and treatment. Special skills you may learn include:

You can use many different devices or techniques to help with speech, such as:

Surgery may help people with dysarthria.

Things that family and friends can do to communicate better with someone who has dysarthria include:

Listen carefully and allow the person to finish. Be patient. Make eye contact with them before speaking. Give positive feedback for their effort.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Depending on the cause of dysarthria, symptoms may improve, stay the same, or get worse slowly or quickly.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if you have:

References

Ambrosi D, Lee YT. Rehabilitation of swallowing disorders. In: Cifu DX, ed. Braddom's Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 3.

Kirshner HS. Dysarthria and apraxia of speech. In: Daroff RB, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 14.

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Review Date: 8/2/2020  

Reviewed By: Amit M. Shelat, DO, FACP, FAAN, Attending Neurologist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology, Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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