Dysarthria is a condition in which you have 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 nervous system (neurological) disorders such as stroke, brain injury, brain tumors, and conditions that cause facial paralysis or tongue or throat muscle weakness. Dysarthria may also be caused by certain medications.
Dysarthria treatment is directed at treating the underlying cause of your condition when possible, which may improve your speech. You may have speech therapy, which often helps people with dysarthria improve their speech. If dysarthria is caused by prescription medications, changing or discontinuing your medications may help.
Signs and symptoms of dysarthria vary, depending on the underlying cause, and may include:
When to see a doctor
In dysarthria, you may experience difficulties moving the muscles in your mouth, face or upper respiratory system that control speech. Many conditions may result in dysarthria, including:
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 what you can do to get ready for your appointment, as well as 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 have. This can be helpful to the neurologist who will be responsible for finding the underlying cause.
To diagnose your condition, your doctor may review your medical history and conduct a thorough physical exam. Your doctor may also order several tests to investigate possible underlying causes, including:
Treatments and drugs
Your treatment will depend on the cause and severity of your symptoms, and the type of dysarthria you have.
Your doctor will treat the underlying cause of your dysarthria when possible, which may improve your speech. If your dysarthria is caused by prescription medications, talk to your doctor about the possibility of changing or discontinuing such medications.
Speech and language therapy
Your speech-language pathologist may recommend other communication methods (augmentative and alternative communication systems) to help you communicate, if speech and language therapy isn't effective. These communication methods could include visual cues, gestures, an alphabet board or computer-based technology.
Coping and support
If you have significant dysarthria that makes your speech difficult to understand, these suggestions may help you communicate more effectively with others:
Family and friends
Last Updated: 2012-05-24
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