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Dysarthria

Pronounced: dis-ARTH-ree-ah

Definition

Dysarthria is a speech disorder. It differs from aphasia, which is a language disorder.

Mouth and Throat

Mouth Throat

Dysarthria may arise from problems with the muscles in the mouth, throat, and respiratory system, as well as other causes.

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Causes

This condition can be caused by not being able to control and coordinate the muscles that you use to talk. This can result from:

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your chance of developing dysarthria include:

  • Being at high risk for stroke
  • Having a degenerative brain disease
  • Having a neuromuscular disease
  • Abusing alcohol or drugs
  • Increased age along with poor health
Symptoms

Symptoms of dysarthria include:

  • Speech that sounds:
    • Slurred
    • Hoarse, breathy
    • Slow or fast and mumbling
    • Soft like whispering
    • Strained
    • Nasal
    • Suddenly loud
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty chewing and swallowing
Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done, paying close attention to your:

  • Ability to move your lips, tongue, and face
  • Production of air flow for speech

Images may be taken of your brain. This can be done with:

  • MRI scan
  • CT scan
  • PET scan
  • Single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scan
  • Swallowing study, which may include x-rays and drinking a special liquid

The electrical function of your nerves or muscles may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Nerve conduction study
  • Electromyogram
Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:

  • Addressing the cause of dysarthria, such as stroke
  • Working with a speech therapist, which may include focusing on:
    • Doing exercises to loosen the mouth area and strengthen the muscles for speech
    • Improving how you articulate
    • Learning how to speak slower
    • Learning how to breath better so you can speak louder
    • Working with family members to help them communicate with you
    • Learning how to use communication devices
    • Safe chewing or swallowing techniques, if needed
  • Changing medication
Prevention

To help reduce your chance of getting dysarthria, take the following steps:

  • Reduce your risk of stroke:
    • Exercise regularly.
    • Eat more fruits and vegetables. Limit dietary salt and fat.
    • If you smoke, talk to your doctor about ways to quit.
    • Maintain a healthy weight.
    • Check your blood pressure often.
    • Take a low dose of aspirin if your doctor recommends it.
    • Keep chronic conditions under control.
    • Call for medical help right away if you have symptoms of a stroke, even if symptoms stop.
  • If you have an alcohol or drug problem, get help.
  • Ask your doctor if medications you are taking could lead to dysarthria.

RESOURCES:

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
http://www.asha.org

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
http://www.ninds.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Heart and Stroke Foundation
http://www.heartandstroke.com

Speech-Language and Audiology Canada
http://www.caslpa.ca

References:

Dysarthria. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: http://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/dysarthria.htm. Accessed February 13, 2014.

McGhee H, Cornwell P, et al. Treating dysarthria following traumatic brain injury: Investigating the benefits of commencing treatment during post-traumatic amnesia in two participants. Brain Injury. 2006;20:1307-1319.

Stroke prevention. National Stroke Association website. Available at: http://www.stroke.org/site/PageServer?pagename=PREVENT. Accessed February 13, 2014.



Last reviewed February 2014 by Rimas Lukas, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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