Dysarthria

1. What is Dysarthria?

Dysarthria is a condition where there is a speech disorder due to the weak, damaged or paralyzed muscles that produce speech. The tongue, vocal cords, larynx, and the surrounding muscles can be affected in this condition causing problems in pronouncing words. There are many types of dysarthria and depend on which part of the nervous system is affected. They are:

  • Spastic dysarthria happens due to damage to the motor neurons in the nervous system.
  • Flaccid dysarthria results due to damage to the peripheral nervous system, PNS.
  • Ataxic dysarthria develops due to damage to the cerebellum.
  • Hyperkinetic dysarthria is caused due to malfunction in the extrapyramidal system of the brain.

2. Dysarthria Symptoms

This speech disorder can affect systems that help in producing speech. There are 5 speech systems like phonation, resonance, prosody, articulation, and respiration that work together to form a sound system. There can be impairment in one or more of the systems leading to the following symptoms:

  • No variations in tone or leading to a monotonous tone.
  • A voice that is either abnormally loud or quiet.
  • Voice is hoarse and scratchy
  • There is a tremor in the vocals
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty in swallowing and chewing.
  • There is little or no control on your tongue
  • The voice is nasal sounding or stuffy
  • The vowels and consonants sounds are distorted
  • The speech is either too fast or too slow
  • There are involuntary movements in the lip, jaw, and tongue
  • Muscle wasting
  • Weakness in the muscles

3. Who is at Risk?

There are many risk factors for dysarthria. They are

  • People who have suffered from a stroke are at a high risk of dysarthria.
  • People who suffer from high blood pressure are at risk of stroke.
  • People who have a chronic illness like diabetes mellitus have a likelihood of developing this speech disorder.
  • Cigarette smokers are at risk of dysarthria due to the effect of toxins on the nervous system.
  • Older people are at risk of having this due to the weakening of muscles.
  • People having heart diseases can have this condition

4. Dysarthria Causes

The causes of dysarthria can be due to damage to the brain or due to damage to the speech organs. The causes of damage to the brain can be due to the following:

  • Brain injury and trauma
  • Stroke
  • Brain tumours, cerebral palsy or dementia
  • Side effects of medications
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis or muscular dystrophy
  • Any other degenerative brain diseases
  • Lou Gehrig’s disease
  • Myasthenia gravis

The speech organs can be damaged due to:

  • The person has a congenital defect
  • Trauma or injury to the face or mouth
  • Head, neck, tongue, or voice box surgery

5. How is Dysarthria Diagnosed?

People who have difficulty speaking should seek the help of a speech-language pathologist. They are specialists who can perform a diagnosis of dysarthria and also provide treatment. The doctor will perform a series of tests to confirm the diagnosis.

  • The person’s medical history is evaluated and the symptoms are made a note.
  • A test on the person’s language and speech is conducted along with physical examination by asking the person to show the tongue, read sentences, and make sounds of vowels and consonants.
  • Blood and urine tests are conducted
  • Brain function tests are performed as part of the dysarthria test.
  • MRI and CT scans are ordered to get images of the brain
  • A muscle function test called the electromyography is done
  • A spinal tap or a brain biopsy may also be prescribed.

6. How is Dysarthria Treated?

Dysarthria treatment depends on the type, cause, and severity of the symptoms. A speech therapist will use various therapies that suit a person with dysarthria. For some people, there is no need for treatment as they recover as the brain heals. There is no dysarthria medicine as such but there are medications for reducing the symptoms of the underlying cause.

  • Physical therapy is performed to improve the strength of the muscles of the jaw, lip, and tongues which helps in speech production.
  • In some cases, alternate communication methods like the use of gestures or computer equipment can be taught to be used.

If you have speech problems, contact our doctors at carefit to get a proper diagnosis and treatment. They are available on video consultations too!

7. How can Dysarthria be Prevented?

It is hard to prevent this speech disorder as it can be caused due to many reasons. But the below tips can reduce the risk to a great degree:

  • Maintain a healthy weight so that there are lesser chances of obesity-related illnesses.
  • Maintain an active lifestyle with plenty of exercises.
  • Consume a healthy diet that prevents chronic illnesses
  • Limit intake of alcohol as that can affect the brain
  • Avoid smoking and second-hand smoking
  • If you have been diagnosed with chronic illnesses like diabetes, blood pressure and high cholesterol take recommended treatment to keep it in control.
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