Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder that is characterized by problems associated with the muscles that we use while speaking. People affected by this condition usually experience symptoms such as slurred speech, slow or rapid rate of speech, strained voice quality, difficulty moving the tongue, etc. This write-up provides information on the types of dysarthria along with the treatment options.
Dysarthria is a neurogenic speech disorder that is characterized by slurred and distorted speech. It is broadly classified into five subtypes. The symptoms of each of these types vary depending on the location and the extent of damage caused to the nervous system. This disorder could occur due to an injury to the structures and pathways of both the central and peripheral nervous system.
Some of the diseases that are most likely to cause this neurogenic speech disorder include Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, brain tumor, cerebral palsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and multiple sclerosis. Besides these medical conditions, a traumatic brain injury can also lead to a loss of control and coordination of muscles that are used for speaking. The use of certain drugs and alcohol abuse could also be responsible for causing this disorder.
Based on the damage to different parts of the structures or pathways of the nervous system, this condition is categorized into spastic, flaccid, ataxic, hyperkinetic/hypokinetic, and unilateral upper motor neuron dysarthria. While the spastic type is caused due to bilateral damage to the upper motor neurons, flaccid type is caused due to damage to the lower motor neurons. Though damage to upper motor neurons is the common feature of the spastic and unilateral upper motor neuron dysarthria, the symptoms of the latter are somewhat milder than those of the former. Ataxic dysarthria occurs in the event of damage to the cerebellum, and is characterized by poor articulation along with slow, slurred, or erratic speech. Hypokinetic and hyperkinetic dysarthria stem from damage to the basal ganglia.
When the muscles involved in articulation, phonation, and respiration get affected due to degenerative disorders, it results in slurred or distorted speech. Since the affected individual cannot control the speech muscles, he/she is unable to speak coherently. People affected by flaccid type have poor voice quality. Their voice might be nasal and the breathing pattern is generally forced or sudden. People affected by flaccid and spastic dysarthria find it hard to pronounce consonants. Swallowing difficulties, hoarse voice quality, imperfect articulation, forced breathing pattern, excessive drooling, nasal sounding voice, and inability to whisper are some of the common symptoms of this condition.
Suitable treatment options can be recommended, once the underlying cause is identified. Generally, doctors conduct blood tests and imaging procedures along with a neurological examination to confirm the diagnosis. For diagnosing this condition, speech pattern, phonation, articulation, resonance, prosod, and respiration are evaluated. Sessions with a speech language pathologist are a crucial part of the treatment. A speech therapist helps the affected individual correct his/her speech patterns. Speech pathology generally involves the use of speech therapy exercises and articulation exercises. Respiratory effort therapy and oral motor therapy are also integral to the treatment. If these treatment options don’t provide the desired results, then the patient might be asked to use augmentative and alternative communication devices. The use of speech generation devices and sign language can help the affected person communicate in a better manner.
Medical assistance must be sought by anyone who has been experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms. There are several treatment options that can help the affected person cope with this speech disorder.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.