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What to know about dysarthria

Dysarthria is a collective term for a group of speech disorders that occur as a result of muscle weakness. People with dysarthria have neurological damage that weakens the muscles necessary for speech.The neurological damage underlying dysarthria may occur as a result of a stroke, brain injury, or neurodegenerative disease.Dysarthria shares many of its symptoms with other types of neurological disorders, such as aphasia, dysphasia, and apraxia.Aphasia and dysphasia affect a person's ability to understand or produce language. These disorders result from damage to the language centers within the brain. Apraxia affects a person's ability to produce speech and results from damage to the part of the brain that plays a role in planning speech.Dysarthria is a distinct speech disorder that specifically involves muscle weakness.Read on to learn more about the causes, types, and symptoms of dysarthria, as well as the treatment options available.
a person with dysarthria trying to talk to another personShare on PinterestA person with dysarthria may find it easier to communicate in a quiet place.Dysarthria occurs when damage to the nervous system weakens the muscles that produce speech sounds. It may affect the muscles in one or more of the following areas:facelipstonguethroatupper respiratory tractThe neurological damage that causes dysarthria can occur due to:neurological conditions, such as epilepsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Parkinson's diseasebrain tumorstrauma from injuries to the head or neck, as well as repeated blunt force impacts to the skullinflammatory conditions, such as autoimmune diseases, encephalitis, and meningitisvascular conditions, such as stroke or Moyamoya diseaseexposure to toxic substances, such as alcohol, heavy metals, or carbon monoxide
People can develop different types of dysarthria depending on the location of neurological damage. We outline the different types of dysarthria below.Spastic dysarthriaPeople with spastic dysarthria may have speech problems alongside generalized muscle weakness and abnormal reflexes.Spastic dysarthria occurs as a result of damage to the motor neurons in the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS includes the brain and spinal cord.Flaccid dysarthriaThe hallmark of flaccid dysarthria is difficulty pronouncing consonants. Damage to the peripheral nervous system (PNS) is responsible for this type of dysarthria. The PNS connects the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body.Flaccid dysarthria can result from any of the following:Ataxic dysarthriaAtaxic dysarthria causes symptoms of slurred speech and poor coordination.This type of dysarthria can occur if a person sustains damage to the cerebellum. The cerebellum is the part of the brain responsible for receiving sensory information and regulating movement.Hypokinetic dysarthriaA malfunction in the brain's extrapyramidal system causes hypokinetic dysarthria. This system includes areas of the brain that coordinate subconscious muscle movements.People with this condition may experience the following symptoms:a quiet, breathy, or monotone voicedifficulty starting sentencesa stutter or slurred speechdifficulty pronouncing consonantsrigidity or reduced movement in the face and neckdifficulty swallowing, which can cause droolingtremors or muscle spasmsHyperkinetic dysarthriaHyperkinetic dysarthria occurs as a result of damage to parts of the brain that doctors refer to collectively as the basal ganglia. The basal ganglia play a role in various functions, including involuntary muscle movement.Symptoms of hyperkinetic dysarthria include:slurred or slow speechshaky voiceshortness of breath or fatigue while speakingmuscle spasms and tremorsinvoluntary jerking or flailing movementsabnormal muscle toneDamage to the basal ganglia can develop as a result of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson's and Huntington's.
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, dysarthria can affect one or more of the following five systems that speech involves:Respiration: Respiration moves air across the vocal cords, creating sounds that the mouth and nose shape into words.Phonation: This system uses airflow from the lungs plus vocal cord vibrations to produce speech sounds.Resonance: Resonance refers to the quality of speech sounds that the vocal tract produces.Articulation: This term means shaping sounds into recognizable words, which involves forming precise and accurate vowels and consonants.Prosody: The rhythm and intonation of speech that give words and phrases their meaning.The five speech systems work together, meaning that impairment in one system can affect the others.People who have dysarthria may experience one or more of the following symptoms:abnormally quiet or loud speaking voicemonotonous tonerough, scratchy, or hoarse voicestuffy or nasal-sounding voicevocal tremorsspeech that is too fast or too slowdistorted consonant and vowel soundsAs conditions that cause dysarthria also affect the nerves that control muscles, people with dysarthria may experience physical symptoms, such as:tremors or involuntary movements of the jaw, tongue, or lipoverly sensitive or undersensitive gag reflexmuscle wastingweaknessPeople who have difficulty speaking can make an appointment to see a speech-language pathologist (SLP). SLPs are healthcare professionals who specialize in diagnosing and treating speech and language conditions.As part of the diagnostic procedure, the SLP will review a person's medical history and ask about their current symptoms. They will also test a person's speech and language. They may ask a person to:stick out their tongueinhale and exhalemake different consonant and vowel soundsread a few sentences out loudcount out loudAn SLP or other healthcare professional may recommend one or more of the following tests to rule out other medical conditions:blood or urine testsimaging tests, including MRI or CT scansbrain function testselectromyography, which tests muscle functionbrain biopsyspinal tapThe treatment for dysarthria varies depending on its type, underlying cause, and symptoms.Some people develop dysarthria due to an underlying medical condition, such as an infection or exposure to a toxic substance. These individuals may notice improvements in their speech after they receive antibiotics or identify and eliminate the toxic compound.An SLP may recommend exercises and techniques to help a person overcome speech difficulties. These may include:exercises to strengthen the muscles in the mouth, jaw, and throatbreathing techniques to increase or decrease the volume of a person's voicetechniques to address specific speech problems, such as teaching people to pause when talking to slow down their speechPeople who have dysarthria may also improve their communication skills by practicing these techniques:maintaining eye contact with the listenerhaving conversations in a quiet environmentusing gestures and facial expressions to convey meaningusing different words to reiterate a messagecarrying a pen and notepad to communicate via written word, if necessaryThe following tips can be helpful for people who want to communicate with someone who has dysarthria:reducing external distractions and finding a quiet, calm place to have a conversationwatching the person as they speakasking for clarification when having trouble understanding somethingavoiding finishing the person's sentences or correcting errorsspeaking normally and clearlyDysarthria is a speech disorder that occurs due to weakness in the muscles necessary for speech production.People can develop dysarthria after a stroke, brain infection, or brain injury. Certain neurodegenerative diseases can also damage parts of the brain that control the muscles that speech involves.Although dysarthria can make communication more complicated, an SLP can teach people how to improve their speaking ability. An SLP can also recommend strategies to aid conversation between a person with dysarthria and their communication partners.
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