What is dysarthria?

Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder in which the muscles that are used to produce speech are damaged, paralyzed, or weakened. The person with dysarthria cannot control his or her tongue, larynx, vocal cords, and surrounding muscles, which makes it difficult for the person to form and pronounce words. The area of the nervous system that is affected determines the type of the dysarthria and how seriously it affects the speech.

What are the causes of dysarthria?

There are two types of dysarthria: central and peripheral dysarthria.

Central dysarthria

Damage to the brain leads to central dysarthria. Damage may be caused by trauma and may occur at birth or develop over time. Causes of central dysarthria include:

  • Stroke
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Brain tumors
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Dementia
  • Huntington's disease
  • Lou Gehrig's disease/amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Other degenerative brain diseases
  • Side effects of medications

Peripheral dysarthria

In peripheral dysarthria, damage to the organs of speech changes the way we sound. Causes of peripheral dysarthria can include:

  • Congenital (the person is born with it)
  • Surgery to the head, neck, tongue, or voice box
  • Trauma to the face or mouth.

What are the symptoms of dysarthria?

Symptoms of dysarthria are mostly changes in speech, and include the following:

  • The speed of speech may be different (faster or slower).
  • The speech is often difficult to understand.
  • Speech might sound slurred, mumbled, or choppy.
  • The person may have trouble moving the lips, jaw, and tongue.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/25/2017.


  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Dysarthria. Accessed 10/25/2017.
  • Merck Manual. Dysarthria. Accessed 10/25/2017.

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