Dysarthria is a condition that results in distorted speech. The cause is difficulty controlling or coordinating the muscles you use when you speak, or weakness of those muscles. Dysarthria often is characterized by slurred or slow speech that can be difficult to understand.
Common causes of dysarthria include stroke, brain injury, brain tumor, conditions that cause facial paralysis or weakness, and degenerative disorders. Dysarthria may also be caused by certain medications, such as sedatives or narcotics.
Treatment of dysarthria is directed at the underlying cause when possible, which may improve speech. Speech therapy often helps people with dysarthria improve speech. If dysarthria is caused by prescription medications, changing or discontinuing the medications may help.
Signs and symptoms of dysarthria vary, depending on the underlying cause. They may include:
When to see a doctor
Dysarthria is caused by difficulty or inability to move the muscles in your mouth, face or upper respiratory system that control speech.
Conditions that may result in dysarthria include:
Some medications, such as narcotics or sedatives, also may cause dysarthria.
Dysarthria can lead to a number of complications, including:
Preparing for your appointment
Dysarthria requires prompt medical attention. See a doctor right away if you experience sudden or unexplained changes in your ability to speak clearly. You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner who will ask about your symptoms, do an initial physical examination and review the medications you're taking. If your doctor suspects that an underlying medical condition is causing your symptoms, he or she will likely refer you to a nervous system specialist (neurologist) for further evaluation.
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For dysarthria, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment anytime you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Your speaking difficulty may be evaluated by a speech-language pathologist to diagnose the type of dysarthria you may exhibit. This can be helpful to the neurologist who will be responsible for finding the underlying cause.
Along with a review of your medical history and a thorough physical exam, the tests and procedures used to investigate possible underlying causes include:
Treatments and drugs
Treatment of dysarthria is directed at the underlying cause when possible, which may improve your speech. If dysarthria is caused by prescription medications, talk to your doctor about the possibility of changing or discontinuing such medications.
Speech and language therapy
If it's not possible to improve your speech to a level that allows for effective communication, your speech-language pathologist may recommend other communication methods (augmentative alternative communication) — such as visual cues, gestures, an alphabet board or electronic equipment — to help you communicate efficiently.
Coping and support
If you have significant dysarthria that makes your speech difficult to understand, the following tips may help you communicate more effectively with others:
Family and friends
Last Updated: 2010-03-18
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