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, which make speech.
The muscles may be weak or completely paralyzed, or it may be difficult 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:
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 difficult to move the lips, tongue, or jaw.
The health care provider will take a medical history and perform a physical examination. Family and friends may need to help with the medical history.
The physician may perform a laryngoscopy. In this test, a flexible viewing tube called a laryngoscope is placed in the mouth and throat to view the voice box.
Tests that may be performed if the cause of the dysarthria is unknown include:
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:
It's important to maintain a relaxed, calm environment. Reduce noise, music, and other stimuli during communication.
A few surgical techniques may help people with ALS and dysarthria.
Depending on the cause of dysarthria, symptoms may improve, stay the same, or get worse slowly or quickly.
Call your health care provider if you have:
Impairment of speech; Slurred speech; Speech disorders - dysarthria
Swanberg MM, Nasreddine ZS, Mendez MF, Cummings JL. Speech and language. In: Goetz CG, ed. Textbook of Clinical Neurology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 6.
Cohen SM, Elackattu A, Noordzij JP, Walsh MJ, Langmore SE. Palliative treatment of dysphonia and dysarthria. Otolaryngol Clin North Am. 2009;42:107-121.
Mahler LA, Ramig LO. Intensive treatment of dysarthria secondary to stroke. Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics. 2012, 26 (8):681-694.
Updated by: Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, and Department of Anatomy at UCSF, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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