Dysarthria is a motor-speech disorder. It causes the inability to coordinate or control the muscles in the face, mouth, and respiratory system. It usually occurs when a brain injury causes the muscles to become weak or immobile.
People with dysarthria canât control the muscles used to make normal sounds. Speech becomes slow or slurred. It becomes difficult for others to understand what the person is trying to say.
Dysarthria can affect many aspects of speech. You may lose the ability to pronounce sounds correctly or speak at a normal level. You may also be unable to control the quality, intonation, and pace at which you speak. Individual speech difficulties will vary depending on the location and severity of the brain injury.
Many conditions can cause dysarthria. Some common causes are:
Dysarthria can affect both children and adults. You are at an increased risk for developing dysarthria if you:
Symptoms of dysarthria range from mild to severe. Location and severity of the brain injury or the underlying condition influence the type of symptoms. Typical symptoms include:
Several tests can identify and diagnose the cause of dysarthria.
A speech-language pathologist will assess the severity of the disorder. A pathologist will study how you speak and assess how you move your lips, tongue, and facial muscles. Aspects of your voice quality and breathing will also factor into the study.
After your initial examination, your doctor may request any of the following tests:
If your symptoms of dysarthria are related to an underlying condition, your physician will treat that disorder first.
If your symptoms are related to the side effects of specific medications, your doctor will work to find alternative medications. Your doctor also may prescribe medication to treat underlying conditions.
Your doctor may recommend surgery if your dysarthria is caused by an operable tumor or lesion in your brain or spinal cord, for example.
A speech language pathologist may be able to help you improve your communication abilities. A speech language pathologist will create a custom treatment plan to address your specific condition. You will likely work to:
Working with a speech language pathologist can help you improve your intelligibility and communication function. The American-Speech-Language Hearing Association reports that about two-thirds of adults with central nervous system disease increased their speech skills after intervention by a speech language pathologist (ASHA).
Dysarthria is not always preventable because it is caused by numerous conditions. But you can reduce your risk factors with these steps: