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.
There are two types of dysarthria: central and peripheral 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:
In peripheral dysarthria, damage to the organs of speech changes the way we sound. Causes of peripheral dysarthria can include:
Symptoms of dysarthria are mostly changes in speech, and include the following:
The doctor will take a thorough medical history and do a complete physical exam. A speech-language pathologist may also see the patient to help determine how severe the problem is. The caregivers will test the patient’s ability to breathe and to move his or her lips, tongue, and face.
Other tests may include:
Treatment of dysarthria depends on the symptoms and how severe they are. Speech therapy can be used to try to improve the patient’s ability to communicate. Speech therapy can help with:
Tips for speaking with dysarthria include the following:
The prognosis depends on what caused the dysarthria. For many of the conditions, the symptoms may last for the rest of the patient’s life. In some cases, such as after surgery, the symptoms may improve. However, for some degenerative conditions, a person may in time completely lose the ability to speak.
Call the doctor when it becomes difficult to speak. Call immediately if there are signs of choking, repeated coughing, or symptoms of pneumonia.
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 09/25/2017