Dysarthria is a speech disorder that prevents the person from speaking and sounding properly. Rehabilitation is done with the help of a speech therapist.
Definition of dysarthria
What is dysarthria?
Dysarthria is a disease characterized by weakness or loss of control of the respiratory muscles, palate, pharynx and tongue. The speech becomes slow or can be difficult to understand.
Causes of dysarthria include disorders of the nervous system such as strokes, brain damage, brain tumors and conditions that cause facial paralysis or muscle weakness in the tongue or throat. Some medicines can also cause dysarthria.
The treatment of dysarthria is intended to treat the underlying cause where possible, which can improve speech. A therapy focusing on the voice to improve the speech is possible. For drug-induced dysarthria, discontinuing these drugs or changing the dosage may help.
Causes of dysarthria
Diseases that can lead to dysarthria include:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
- A brain injury.
- A brain tumor.
- Cerebral palsy
- Guillain Barre syndrome.
- A head injury
- Huntington’s disease.
- Lyme disease.
- Multiple sclerosis.
- Muscular dystrophy.
- Parkinson’s disease.
- A cerebral vascular accident.
- Wilson’s disease.
- Some drugs such as narcotics or sedatives.
Diagnosis of dysarthria
Dysarthria requires rapid medical attention. See a doctor immediately if you have sudden or unexplained changes in your ability to speak.
You will probably start seeing your family doctor or general practitioner. If your doctor suspects a health condition that is causing your symptoms, he will probably refer you to a neurologist for further evaluation.
The doctor may ask the following questions:
- When did the symptoms begin?
- Are the symptoms permanent or occasional?
- Do the symptoms seem to improve or worsen?
- Which medicines, vitamins or supplements do you take?
- A speech therapist can evaluate your speech to determine the type of dysarthria. This can be useful for the neurologist, who will look for the underlying cause.
- Imaging tests. Imaging tests, such as an MRI or CT scan, provide detailed images of the brain that can help identify the cause of speech disorders.
- An electroencephalogram measures electrical activity in the brain.
- An electromyogram evaluates the electrical activity of the nerves when transmitting messages to the muscles. Nerve conduction studies measure the strength and speed of electrical signals as they pass through the nerves to the muscles.
- Tests of blood and urine. These can help determine if an infectious or inflammatory disease causes the symptoms.
- Lumbar puncture. It is a procedure in which a doctor or nurse inserts a needle into the lower back to remove a small sample of cerebrospinal fluid for analysis.
- Biopsy of the brain. If a brain tumor is suspected, the doctor may remove a small sample of the brain tissue for analysis.
- Neuropsychological tests. These tests evaluate cognitive abilities such as the ability to understand speech and reading, as well as writing. Dysarthria does not affect cognitive skills and understanding of speech and writing, but an underlying illness can cause cognitive impairment.
Evolution and possible complications
Due to communication problems caused by dysarthria, complications may include:
- A difficulty of life in society. Communication problems can affect your relationships with family and friends and make social situations difficult.
- Depression. In some people, dysarthria can lead to social isolation and depression.
Symptoms of dysarthria
The signs and symptoms of dysarthria vary depending on the underlying cause and type of dysarthria and may include:
- Speech disorders.
- Slow speech.
- Inability to speak loudly
- A quick speech that is difficult to understand.
- Nasal or hoarse voice.
- Rhythm of unequal or abnormal speech.
- Uneven speech volume.
- Monotonous speech.
- Difficulty moving the tongue or the muscles of the face.
Treatment of dysarthria
Treatment will depend on the cause and severity of the symptoms and the type of dysarthria.
Your doctor will treat the cause of dysarthria if possible, which can improve speech. If your dysarthria is caused by medication, your doctor may change or discontinue the treatment.
Speech and language therapy can be offered to help restore normal speech and improve communication. The purpose of this therapy is to strengthen the muscles, increase the ability to breathe well, improve the joint, and help family members communicate with the patient.
There are no complementary approaches to prevent or treat dysarthria.
However, there are tips that can help the patient communicate more effectively:
- Speak slowly to allow the interlocutor time to understand what he hears.
- Introduce your subject with a short word or phrase before speaking with longer sentences.
- Ask the interlocutor to confirm that he has understood.
- Take a break if you are tired. Fatigue can make speech more difficult to understand.
- Writing messages can be useful. Write messages on a cell phone or take a pencil and a small block of paper with you.
- Use shortcuts. Make drawings or use photos during conversations, to reduce the stress of speaking.
- Pointing to an object can also help convey a message.
Family and friends
If you have a family member or friend with dysarthria, the following suggestions may help you to better communicate with this person:
- Allow the person to speak.
- Do not finish the sentences or correct the errors.
- Look at the person when she speaks.
- Reduce distracting noises in the environment.
- Tell the person if you have trouble understanding.
- Keep a paper, pencil or pen readily available for access.
- Involve the person with dysarthria in conversations as much as possible.
- Speak normally. Many people with dysarthria understand others without difficulty. There is no need to slow down or speak out loud.