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Dysarthria: Understanding the Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & More

Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder characterized by difficulty in articulating words due to the malfunction of the muscles used for speaking. This condition impacts the physical production of speech, making it challenging for individuals to express themselves clearly.


Fortunately, by understanding dysarthria, you can better manage and treat this condition. In this article, we’ll explore the causes, symptoms, and treatment of dysarthria to help you navigate the challenges of this speech disorder.


In this article we will discuss:

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Exploring the Most Common Causes of Dysarthria

The causes of dysarthria are multifaceted, often involving damage to the brain or nerves that

control speech muscles. Common causes include:


● Neurological Disorders: Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), amyotrophic

lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Huntington's disease.

● Stroke: Damages brain areas responsible for muscle control, impairing coordination and

strength of the muscles needed for speech.

● Brain Injury: Traumatic brain injuries disrupt neural pathways, leading to speech

difficulties.

● Infections: Meningitis and encephalitis cause inflammation in the brain, potentially

damaging speech-related regions.

● Degenerative Diseases: Friedreich's ataxia and Wilson's disease affect muscle control

by damaging the nervous system.


With some causes, like medication or even poorly-fitted dentures, dysarthria can be reversed by addressing the cause. However, in most cases, the cause cannot be simply resolved, so the goal of speech therapy is to improve communication and quality of life with this disorder.


Empower Your Voice: Understand and Treat Dysarthria!

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Identifying the Symptoms of Dysarthria


The symptoms of dysarthria vary depending on the underlying cause and severity of the

condition. Common symptoms include:


● Slurred Speech: Words may sound unclear or distorted.

● Slow Speech: Speech may be unusually slow and deliberate.

● Rapid Speech: Speech may be excessively fast and difficult to understand.

● Nasal Speech: Speech may have a nasal quality due to poor control of the soft palate.

● Strained Voice: The voice may sound tense, strained, or effortful.

● Breathy Voice: Speech may sound breathy or weak.

● Irregular Speech Rhythm: Inconsistent speech rhythm, with pauses or interruptions.


As you can see, dysarthria can present itself in a variety of ways, making it crucial to address

any articulation issues early on.


Understanding the Diagnosis of Dysarthria


Diagnosing dysarthria involves a comprehensive evaluation by healthcare professionals, often starting with a review of the patient's medical history to identify any underlying conditions.


A physical examination assesses the strength, coordination, and movement of the speech

muscles. Speech assessments conducted by speech-language pathologists (SLPs) are crucial,

evaluating the clarity, pitch, volume, and rhythm of the patient's speech.


Articulation tests measure the patient's ability to pronounce words, while voice quality analysis looks at the clarity and characteristics of the voice. Respiratory function tests assess how breathing impacts speech, and prosody evaluation examines the rhythm and intonation of speech.


Neurological examinations by neurologists can identify any abnormalities in the nervous system that might contribute to dysarthria. Imaging studies like MRI or CT scans help detect structural abnormalities in the brain. Electromyography (EMG) can measure the electrical activity of muscles to evaluate nerve and muscle function.


These diagnostic tools collectively help determine the underlying cause and severity of

dysarthria, guiding appropriate treatment strategies.


Adult speech therapy

Navigating the Treatment of Dysarthria


If you believe you or someone you know is suffering from dysarthria, it’s important to address

the issue quickly. When you seek an evaluation with a speech-language pathologist, they’ll tailor treatment based on the underlying cause and severity of the condition.

These treatment options may include:


● Speech Therapy: A speech-language pathologist can help improve speech clarity and

communication skills through various exercises. Articulation exercises strengthen the

muscles used in speech to improve pronunciation. Breathing techniques enhance breath

control to support stronger and clearer speech. Voice exercises work on pitch, volume,

and intonation to improve voice quality.


● Assistive Devices: For severe cases, assistive devices such as speech-generating

devices (SGDs) and communication boards can facilitate communication.


● Medications: Depending on the underlying condition, medications may be prescribed to

manage symptoms. For instance, drugs like levodopa can help improve motor control

and speech in Parkinson's disease. Medications like anticholinesterase agents can

improve muscle strength in conditions like myasthenia gravis.


● Surgical Interventions: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to address structural

problems. For example, deep brain stimulation (DBS) is used for Parkinson's disease to

improve motor function, and tumor removal can relieve pressure on speech areas in the

brain.


● Lifestyle Modifications: Simple changes can help improve communication. Speaking

slowly and clearly, using gestures, and pausing frequently can reduce strain and improve

clarity.


Coping with the Affects of Dysarthria


Living with dysarthria presents significant challenges, but with the right support and strategies, individuals can maintain effective communication and a good quality of life. Regular speech therapy and practice can lead to continued improvements in speech and communication skills.


Beyond therapy, support from family, friends, and healthcare professionals is also crucial along your journey to clear and effective communication. Educating those around the patient about dysarthria fosters understanding and patience, making interactions more manageable. Joining support groups can also provide emotional and practical support, connecting individuals with others who have similar experiences.


Getting Started with Speech Therapy for Dysarthria


Dysarthria is a complex motor speech disorder caused by various neurological and systemic

conditions. It significantly impacts communication but can be managed with appropriate

diagnosis and treatment. Early intervention, tailored speech therapy, and support from family and healthcare professionals are essential for improving speech and enhancing the quality of life for individuals with dysarthria.


To get started with your journey to clear and confident communication, get in touch with an expert at Better Speech. With our online speech therapy, you can get in touch with our team of over 250 speech-language pathologists. Once you reach out, you’ll be matched with an expert in childhood speech development, who will help guide your child toward clear and confident communication! To get started, get in touch with us via our contact page today!

Dysarthria speech therapy

Frequently Asked Questions

Can dysarthria affect both children and adults?

Yes, dysarthria can affect individuals of all ages, including both children and adults. In children, it may be due to congenital conditions or developmental issues, while in adults, it is often the result of neurological disorders, strokes, or injuries.

Is dysarthria the same as aphasia?

Can lifestyle changes help manage dysarthria?

Are there any support groups for individuals with dysarthria?

Can dysarthria be a temporary condition?


 

About the Author

social pragmatic writer

Aycen Zambuto


I’m a seasoned educator in speech therapy with over six years of experience helping people navigate challenges in communication. Throughout this time, I’ve found joy in guiding individuals through a variety of therapeutic journeys, from toddlers with apraxia to seniors with dysphonia.

I’m passionate about demystifying this complex world of speech therapy and helping readers around the globe achieve clear and effective communication. When I’m not writing about speech, you’ll often find me reading, traveling or spending time with friends and family.

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