Dysarthria is a condition in which you have difficulty saying words because of problems with the muscles that help you talk.
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:
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.
A procedure called laryngoscopy may be done. During this procedure, a flexible viewing tube called a laryngoscope 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:
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.
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
Kirshner HS. Language and speech disorders: motor speech disorders: dysarthria and apraxia of speech. In: Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J. Mazziotta JC, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2012:chap 12B.
Kortte JH, Palmer JB. Speech and language disorders. In: Frontera WR, Silver JK, Rizzo TD Jr., eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2014:chap 154.
Mahler LA, Ramig LO. Intensive treatment of dysarthria secondary to stroke. Clin Linguist Phon. 2012;26:681-694.
Updated by: Joseph V. Campellone, MD, Department of Neurology, Cooper University Hospital, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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