Dysarthria – Definition, Types, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Has your friend been suffering from a slurred speech lately? Is he or she also having difficulties in swallowing or chewing? It may be Dysarthria at work. Know all about the Dysarthria disease, its causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.

What Is Dysarthria?

Dysarthria is a motor speech impairment that is marked by defective speech. It is believed to be the result of some neurological disorder.

Dysarthria Medical Definition

Dysarthria is defined by medical professionals as a speech disorder resulting from disturbances in controlling muscles due to damage in the Peripheral or Central Nervous System.

Types of Dysarthria

Dysarthria is classified into different types based on the signs and symptoms shown in people suffering from the condition. Some of the major types of Dysarthria are

Spastic Dysarthria

It results from injury to both sides of the upper motor neuron.

Flaccid Dysarthria

It originates from damage to one or both sides of the lower motor neuron.

Ataxic Dysarthria

It arises from injury to the cerebellum, the rain structure divided into three lobes.

Unilateral Upper Motor Neuron Dysarthria

It happens when only one edge of the upper motor neuron suffers damage.

Hyperkinetic Dysarthria

It occurs when parts of the basal ganglia are affected, probably due to the formation of lesions.

Hypokinetic Dysarthria

Like Hyperkinetic Dysarthria, this disorder arises when parts of the basal ganglia suffer damage.

Mixed Dysarthria

Mixed Dysarthria is a combination of multiple Dysarthria conditions and usually arises from head injuries, strokes, infectious diseases or degenerative conditions.

Dysarthria Symptoms

Dysarthria is typically marked by speech difficulties. Sufferers of this disease have problems uttering certain words or sounds. In many cases, patients suffer from a slurred speech. Dysarthria patients seem like speaking with a thick tongue to their friends and family members.

In some cases, Dysarthria sufferers feel like mumbling to bystanders. They may also speak in a whisper or in a hoarse voice.

Individuals with Dysarthria may also suffer from problems in swallowing or chewing while having foods. They may also drool from the mouth at times. Dysarthria causes drooling in many people.

Causes of Dysarthria

Dysarthria can arise due to a number of reasons. Some of the major causes of Dysarthria are

Diseases

Diseases affecting muscles and nerves such as Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Myasthenia Gravis, Cerebral Palsy and Muscular Dystrophy are often found to lead to Dysarthria. In many patients of Dysarthria Multiple Sclerosis is seen as a major cause.

Injuries

Trauma to the head, face or neck can cause damage to nerves and muscles that help utter speech. This is a major cause for Dysarthria.

Surgery

Surgical operation carried out in people affected with head or neck cancer often involves total or partial removal of the voice box or tongue resulting in Dysarthria.

Medicinal Side Effects

Use of narcotic drugs or medicines like Phenytoin or Carbamazepine can give rise to side effects that affect the Central Nervous System (CNS). This can result in Dysarthria.

Alcohol

Dysarthria can also result from intoxication due to prolonged alcohol abuse.

Dentures

Dysarthria is also often a result of ill fitting dentures. The condition is, however, temporary in such cases.

Dysarthria Diagnosis

Diagnosis of Dysarthria generally begins with a physical examination of the patient. Friends or family members of sufferers are asked for medical history by doctors. Assessment of Dysarthria involves examining resonance, articulation and phonation of speech.

Medical professionals typically recommend a Laryngoscopy to check the condition of the larynx or voice box. Laryngoscopy involves placing a flexible tube known as a Laryngoscope in the mouth to help view the larynx.

If physical observation and Laryngoscopy fails to detect the condition, other kinds of Dysarthria testing may be required. Blood tests may be conducted to check vitamin or toxin levels in the bloodstream. Imaging tests like CAT scan and MRI of the neck or brain may be done to find any possible abnormalities. This can also help detect if an individual has Dysarthria from stroke.

Electromyogram and Nerve Conduction exams may be carried out to ascertain the electrical functioning of the muscles or nerves.

Dysarthria Differential Diagnosis

The Differential Diagnosis for Dysarthria involves distinguishing the disease from other conditions that give rise to similar speech problems. These include Multiple Sclerosis, Chorea Gravidarum and Aphasia.

Dysarthria Treatment

The treatment for Dysarthria is typically carried out by a speech pathologist. The patient is made to execute a number of exercises that helps improve voce inflection and pronunciation. The exercises aim at reducing the speed of speech which makes them easier to understand. In Dysarthria pronunciation and articulation become quite difficult. The slowing of speech can be practiced with the help of Metronome, a type of stopwatch. The patient has to pronounce one syllable with one tick of the Metronome.

Some Dysarthria patients have difficulties uttering particular syllables. Such people have to follow speech therapies to make such difficulties. Speech exercises and therapies are usually enough for treatment of Dysarthria.

In people suffering from severe Dysarthria of speech surgeries may be needed to modify the Pharyngeal Flap. Prosthetic devices like speech bulb implants or obturators may be required in some cases. Sign language may also be used to help such individuals communicate.

Dysarthria Management

Living with Dysarthria can be tough but there are ways to tackle disease. It is important for a Dysarthria sufferer to maintain peace of mind. A calm and quiet environment helps a Dysarthria patient to concentrate on his/her speech and talk more effectively. Noise and music should be kept to a minimum to allow the person communicate more easily. Excitement can make communication very hard for a Dysarthria sufferer.

For managing Dysarthria Oral Motor Exercises can be quite effective. Jaw and tongue press exercises work great in reducing difficulties while uttering speech.

In patients working with Dysarthria breathing exercises are important to tackle speech properly. Dysarthria exercises like blowing a harmonica or blowing bubbles can control breath and help talk more effectively.

Dysarthria Complications

Dysarthria can give rise to complications like choking, fever, chills, chest pain and severe coughs. Failure in proper communication can cause depression, low self esteem and other social problems.

If you know someone suffering from Dysarthria, it is advisable that you get immediate medical assistance. Faster treatment can keep Dysarthria in check and prevent further complications at a later stage.

References:

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/578915_5

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0004947/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dysarthria

http://www.wrongdiagnosis.com/sym/dysarthria.htm

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003204.htm

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-dysarthria.htm

http://stroke.about.com/od/glossary/g/dysarthria.htm

http://www2.muw.edu/~mharmon/501ch10stg.html

Published on May 24th 2011 by  under Mental Health and Behavior.
Article was last reviewed on 30th August 2011.

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