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Dysarthria: Definition, Types & Treatment

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Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

Dysarthria is a speech impediment characterized by the inability to control the muscles necessary for speech. Learn about the definition, causes, symptoms, treatment, and types of dysarthria. Updated: 10/15/2021

Definition of Dysarthria

Have you ever known someone who suffered from a stroke and had trouble speaking afterwards? Sometimes this difficulty is due to a condition called dysarthria. Dysarthria is a speech impediment that prevents a person from speaking clearly because the muscles that control their mouth are not functioning properly. These muscles could be in the tongue, lips, or even the diaphragm. A person with dysarthria can be difficult to understand because they physically struggle to control how their words are spoken. Dysarthria does not affect their mental state, so they are probably frustrated, since they know what they want to say but are struggling to say it.

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  • 0:03 Definition of Dysarthria
  • 0:41 Causes of Dysarthria
  • 1:15 Symptoms of Dysarthria
  • 2:08 Types of Dysarthria
  • 3:27 Dysarthria Treatment
  • 4:11 Lesson Summary
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Causes of Dysarthria

Dysarthria occurs when damage occurs to the muscles that control speech, and this damage can be done by a number of conditions. These include stroke, brain tumors, brain injuries, a serious head injury, Lyme disease, Parkinson's disease, Wilson's disease, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and Huntington's disease, among others. The severity of the dysarthria depends on which part of the body is most affected by the underlying disease. In rare situations, adverse reactions to certain medications may also cause dysarthria.

Symptoms of Dysarthria

We've already learned about the main symptom of dysarthria: difficulty speaking. Once a person loses control over their muscles, it's hard or impossible to regain that strength. The specific symptoms a person experiences from dysarthria depends on their personal situation and the condition causing dysarthria to develop in the first place.

The most common symptoms are:

  • Slow speech
  • Slurred speech
  • Improper or abnormal volume control
  • Improper or abnormal speed control
  • A strained voice

If symptoms develop rapidly and without explanation, it can be a sign of a serious underlying medical condition, and it is probably best to seek out the advice of a doctor. Side effects of the symptoms can include feeling anxious in social situations and even feeling depressed. Patients with dysarthria often feel emotional anguish over losing the ability to easily communicate with the people around them.

Types of Dysarthria

There are six main types of dysarthria: spastic, hyperkinetic, hypokinetic, ataxic, flaccid, and mixed dysarthria.

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