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Dysarthria

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.

Symptoms Causes Complications

Signs and symptoms of dysarthria vary, depending on the underlying cause, and may include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Slow rate of speech
  • Inability to speak louder than a whisper
  • Rapid rate of speech that is difficult to understand
  • Nasal, raspy or strained voice quality
  • Uneven or abnormal rhythm of speech
  • Uneven volume of speech
  • Monotone speech
  • Difficulty moving your tongue or facial muscles
  • Drooling

When to see a doctor

Dysarthria can be sign of a serious underlying condition. See your doctor if you experience sudden or unexplained changes in your ability to speak clearly.

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:

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease)
  • Brain injury
  • Brain tumor
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Head injury
  • Huntington's disease
  • Lyme disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Stroke
  • Wilson's disease

Some medications, such as narcotics or sedatives, also may cause dysarthria.

Dysarthria can lead to a number of complications, including:

  • Communication problems. Dysarthria may make it difficult for others to understand you when you speak, decreasing your ability to communicate effectively.
  • Social difficulty. The communication problems caused by dysarthria may affect your relationships with family and friends and can make social situations challenging.
  • Depression. In some people, dysarthria may lead to social isolation and depression.
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