Dysarthria and aphasia are two common communication disorders that can affect adults. However, they are two very different conditions with different causes and treatments. In this blog post, we will explore the key differences between dysarthria and aphasia, so that you can better understand these conditions and seek appropriate treatment if needed.
In this article we will discuss:
What is Dysarthria?
Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder. This means that it affects the muscles used for speaking such as the lips, tongue, and voice box. Dysarthria can make it hard to produce clear speech. It can also affect the loudness, pitch, and rhythm of speech.
A person with dysarthria may have difficulty producing speech sounds, may speak slowly or with an abnormal rhythm, or may slur their words. Dysarthria depends on the cause and severity of the condition.
Types of dysarthria
There are seven types of dysarthria that differ in the way they affect speech production:
Flaccid dysarthria is due to weakness in the muscles used for speaking. It can make speech sound very soft, slow, and slurred. Audible aspiration (when air escapes from the mouth while speaking) may also be present. Flaccid dysarthria is often due to damage to the nervous system, specifically in the lower motor neurons. This type of damage can result from stroke, ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), or muscular dystrophy.
Spastic dysarthria is due to spasticity, which is when the muscles are tight and stiff. It can make speech sound very harsh, strained, and high-pitched. Spastic dysarthria is often due to damage to the nervous system, specifically in the upper motor neurons. This type of damage can be the result of stroke, cerebral palsy, or multiple sclerosis.
Ataxic dysarthria is due to problems with muscle coordination. It can make speech sound very uncoordinated, shaky, and slow. Ataxic dysarthria is often due to damage to the cerebellum, which is a part of the brain that controls coordination. This type of damage can be a result of stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, or head injury. Ataxic dysarthria treatment might focus on improving rhythm, volume, and rate of speech.
Hypokinetic dysarthria is due to a lack of muscle movement. It can make speech sound very slow and monotonous. Hypokinetic dysarthria is often a result of damage to the basal ganglia, which is part of the brain that controls muscle movement. This type of damage can be due to a medical condition such as Parkinson’s disease or Huntington’s disease.
Hyperkinetic dysarthria is due to too much muscle movement. It can make speech sound very rapid and irregular. Hyperkinetic dysarthria is often a result of damage to the cerebrum, which is the largest part of the brain. This type of damage can be due to stroke or dementia.
Mixed dysarthria is a combination of two or more of the other types of dysarthria. It can make speech sound very unclear and hard to understand. Mixed dysarthria is often due to damage to more than one area of the brain. This type of damage can be a result of a stroke, head injury, or cerebral palsy.
What causes dysarthria?
Dysarthria can be due to a variety of conditions that damage the nervous system. This includes stroke, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, ALS, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, head injury, and muscular dystrophy.
Diagnosis of dysarthria
Dysarthria is diagnosed by a speech-language pathologist (SLP). The SLP will first do a medical history and ask about any symptoms you may be having. They will then observe your speech patterns and how you move your mouth when you speak. They may also ask you to do some tests, such as reading out loud or saying certain words or sounds.
After the diagnosis is done, the SLP will develop a treatment plan. This plan will be based on the type of dysarthria you have and how severe it is.
Treatments for dysarthria
There is no cure for dysarthria. However, there are dysarthria treatments that can help improve speech production. The type of treatment will depend on the type of dysarthria you have.
Treatments for dysarthria may include:
Dysarthria speech therapy to help with muscle movement and coordination
Exercises to help strengthen the muscles used for speaking
Devices to help with communication, such as an alphabet board or computer software
Dysarthria can be a frustrating condition, but with correct treatments for dysarthria, many people are able to improve their speech production.
What is Aphasia?
Aphasia is a language disorder. This means that it affects a person’s ability to understand or use language. A person with aphasia may have difficulty speaking, understanding, reading, or writing. Aphasia is due to damage to the language centers of the brain. This damage can be a result of stroke, head injury, or dementia. Aphasia does not affect intelligence.
Main types of aphasia
Expressive aphasia: This type of aphasia is also called Broca’s aphasia. Broca’s aphasia is due to a lesion in the frontal lobe of the brain, specifically in Broca’s area. Broca’s area is responsible for language production. People with expressive aphasia have difficulty producing speech. They may speak in short phrases and have trouble finding the right words. They may present with a very nonfluent or halting speech pattern. For example, they may say, “The uh…the uh…the dog chased the cat.” Broca's aphasia treatment might focus on improving this output.
Receptive aphasia: This type of aphasia is also called Wernicke’s aphasia. Wernicke’s aphasia is due to a lesion in the temporal lobe of the brain, specifically in Wernicke’s area. Wernicke’s area is responsible for language understanding. People with receptive aphasia have difficulty understanding speech. They may be able to speak in long, run-on sentences that don’t make sense. For example, they may say, “The cow jumped over the moon, and then she went to the store.”
Global aphasia: People with global aphasia have difficulty with both expressive and receptive aphasia. This is the most severe type of aphasia. Global aphasia is due to damage to large areas of the language centers of the brain. People with global aphasia have difficulty speaking, understanding, reading, and writing. They may be able to say a few words, but their speech will be very difficult to understand.
Anomic aphasia: Anomic aphasia is also called dysnomia or amnesic aphasia. It is due to damage to the temporal lobe or frontal lobe of the brain. People with anomic aphasia have difficulty finding words. They may be able to speak in sentences, but they will often pause and have trouble retrieving the right word. For example, they may say, “I went to the store to buy some… um… apples.” Anomic aphasia treatment might focus on retraining the brain to recall these words or to assist the individual in coming up with strategies to cope.
Aphasia can range from mild to severe. Some people with aphasia only have difficulty with a few words, while others are completely unable to speak or understand language.
What causes aphasia?
Aphasia is due to damage to the language centers of the brain. This damage can be a result of stroke, head injury, or dementia A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is cut off. A head injury occurs when the head is hit by an object. Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability.
How is aphasia diagnosed?
Aphasia is diagnosed by a speech-language pathologist (SLP). The SLP will ask questions about your medical history and symptoms. They will also give you a neurological exam and a cognitive test. After the diagnosis is made, the SLP will develop a treatment plan. This plan will be based on the type and severity of your aphasia.
How is aphasia treated?
There is no cure for aphasia, but there are many options for aphasia treatment. The goal of speech language therapy is to help you communicate as effectively as possible. A speech-language pathologist can help you with this. Aphasia therapy varies depending on the type and severity of your aphasia. It may include:
Melodic Intonation Therapy (MIT)
MIT is a type of technique that uses melody and rhythm to help people with aphasia speak more clearly. This is done by speaking while singing or tapping out a beat. It helps people with aphasia because it engages the right side of the brain. The right side of the brain is responsible for melody and rhythm.
Constraint-Induced Language Therapy (CILT)
CILT is a type of aphasia speech therapy. It helps people with aphasia use the language skills they still have. This is done by constraining the use of their non-affected hand and arm. For example, if the person has aphasia and can only say one-syllable words, the therapist will have them repeat words with more syllables.
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)
AAC is a way to communicate without speaking. It includes devices such as picture boards and voice output devices. AAC can help people with aphasia communicate their needs, wants, and thoughts. This is most useful for people with Global Aphasia or Severe Aphasia.
Dysarthria vs Aphasia: What is the difference between dysarthria and aphasia?
Dysarthria and aphasia are both types of communication disorders. They can both make it hard to speak. The difference between dysarthria and aphasia includes:
Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder. Aphasia is a language disorder.
Dysarthria is due to damage to the muscles or nerves that control speech. Aphasia is due to damage to the parts of the brain that control language.
Dysarthria can make it hard to speak clearly. Aphasia can make it hard to understand or produce language.
It is important to note that some people have both dysarthria and aphasia. This is called mixed receptive-expressive language disorder.
There are comorbid conditions associated with dysarthria and aphasia.
There are a few comorbid conditions that can happen along with aphasia and dysarthria. These include apraxia of speech. Apraxia and dysarthria often happen together because they both involve problems with muscle control. This is when someone has both apraxia and dysarthria. This is because when the muscles are weak, it can be hard to produce speech. This can also lead to trouble understanding what other people are saying.
Treatment for comorbid conditions, such as apraxia and dysarthria, is often done by a team of healthcare professionals. This team may include a:
Speech-language pathologist (SLP)
Can speech therapy help with dysarthria and aphasia?
If you or a loved one has aphasia, apraxia, and dysarthria, know that there is help available. Speech therapy can make a big difference in the lives of people with aphasia. It can help them communicate more effectively and lead more independent lives. At Better Speech, we offer online speech therapy services convenient for you and tailored to your needs. Our services are affordable and effective - get Better Speech now.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there any treatments that help both dysarthria and aphasia?
Dysarthria and aphasia oftentimes will co-exist in individuals that have suffered a stroke, TBI, or other illness/injury so there are many therapy methods that target both areas. Dysarthria is often targeted through motor exercises, while aphasia is often targeted through language-focused therapy. Some speech-language pathologists might combine the two therapies, by having the patient carry out the language activities while also performing their dysarthria exercises (i.e. Melodic Intonation Therapy or MIT is known to assist in treating both, and is even sometimes used to treat apraxia as well).
Can dysarthria and aphasia be cured?
Whether or not dysarthria and aphasia can be cured depends on the particular individual being treated because every case is different. Severity, length between treatments, and the type of injury/illness can all affect whether they can be cured. In many cases, an individual might not be completely cured but through speech-language therapy, they can return to a sense of normalcy and learn strategies to better improve their speech and language production.
What's the prognosis for people with dysarthria or aphasia?
The prognosis for individuals with dysarthria or aphasia depends on the severity and type of disorder. It also depends on the individual, because it has been seen in some cases that even individuals with very severe aphasia and dysarthria make tremendous strides toward recovery. Prognosis improves with treatment, and not just treatment, but how quickly they receive treatment and how often they attend therapy. These factors all have an effect on how quickly and how well an individual might recover from aphasia and dysarthria.
About the Author
I am a Speech-Language Pathologist with 14 years of experience working with children and adults who have communication difficulties. I completed my Bachelor of Science degree in Health Science at Cebu Doctors' University and have been helping people overcome their communication challenges ever since.
I have worked with individuals of different ages, including toddlers, preschoolers, school-aged children, adults and seniors. I'm passionate about speech therapy and take great satisfaction in helping people overcome their communication challenges and improve their lives through better communication skills. In my spare time I like reading books, going hiking in nature and taking care of my dog Locas.