By Medicover Hospitals / 20 Feb 2021
Weakness in the muscles used for speaking, which often causes slow or cloudy speech. Problems with speech can have causes that are not due to an underlying disease. Examples include extreme fatigue, intoxication, reading a difficult text aloud, recent oral anesthesia, or lack of teeth.
- What is a slurred speech?
- When to visit a Doctor?
What is a slurred speech?
Slurred speech or speech disorders are a symptom characterized by the poor pronunciation of words, mumbling, or a change in speed or rhythm during a conversation. The medical term for speech disorders is dysarthria.
Speech disorders may develop slowly over time or follow a single incident. Speech problems can be temporary or permanent, depending on the underlying cause.
Proper speech requires normal functioning of the brain, mouth, tongue, and vocal cords (larynx). Damage or disease to any of these organs can cause slurred speech. Common causes of speech disorders include alcohol or drug poisoning, traumatic brain injury, stroke, and neuromuscular disorders. Neuromuscular disorders that often cause slurred speech include amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and Parkinson's disease.
Impaired speech can be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening illness, such as a stroke or traumatic brain injury. See a doctor right away if you have slurred speech and other serious symptoms, such as numbness or weakness on one side of your body; a change in the level of consciousness or alertness, such as fainting or unresponsiveness; or the worst headache of your life, because they could be a sign of a stroke.
In dysarthria or slurred speech, you may have difficulty moving the muscles in your mouth, face, or upper airways that control speech. Conditions that can lead to dysarthria include:
Certain medications, such as certain sedatives and anti-epileptic drugs, can also cause dysarthria.
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease)
- Cerebral lesion - brain-damage
- Brain tumor
- Brain tumor
- Cerebral palsy
- Guillain-Barre syndrome
- Head injury
- Huntington's disease
- Lyme disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscular dystrophy
- Myasthenia gravis
- Parkinson's disease
- Wilson's disease
Because of the communication problems caused by dysarthria, complications can include:
- Social Difficulties: 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.
If they suspect that you have dysarthria, your doctor may refer you to a speech-language pathologist. This specialist may use several exams and tests to assess the severity and diagnose the cause of your dysarthria. For example, they will assess how you speak and move your lips, tongue, and facial muscles. They can also assess aspects of your voice quality and breathing.
After your initial examination, your doctor may order one or more of the following tests: study of swallowing
- MRI or CT scan to provide detailed images of your brain, head, and neck
- Lumbar puncture to check for infections, central nervous system disorders, or brain cancer
- Electroencephalogram (EEG) to measure electrical activity in your brain
- Electromyogram (EMG) to measure the electrical impulses of your muscles
- Nerve conduction study (NCS) to measure the force and speed with which your nerves send electrical signals
- GBlood or urine tests to look for an infection or other disease that may cause your dysarthria
- Neuropsychological tests to measure your cognitive skills and your ability to understand speaking, reading, and writing
Treatment will depend on the cause of your dysarthria, the type, and your signs. Your speech might improve after treating the cause.
If you still have dysarthria, see a speech-language pathologist who will teach you:
Your therapist will also give you tips to help you communicate, such as:
- Exercises to strengthen the muscles of your mouth and jaw
- Ways to speak more clearly, such as speaking more slowly or catching your breath
- How to control your breathing to make your voice louder
- How to use devices like an amplifier to improve the sound of your voice
- Take a laptop or smartphone with you. If someone doesn't understand you, write or type what you want to say.
- Make sure you have the other person's attention.
- Speak slowly.
- Speak face to face if you can. The other person will understand you better if they see your mouth moving.
- Try not to talk in loud places, such as at a restaurant or a party. Before speaking, turn off the music or the television, or go outside.
- Use facial expressions or hand gestures to get your point across.
- Use brief sentences and words that are easier to pronounce.
When to visit a Doctor?
Dysarthria can be a sign of serious illness. See your doctor if you have sudden or unexplained changes in your ability to speak.
Many conditions can cause dysarthria, so it's difficult to prevent it. But you can lower your risk of dysarthria by adopting a healthy lifestyle that lowers your risk of stroke. For example:
- Regular exercise
- Keep your weight at a healthy level
- Increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet
- Limit cholesterol, saturated fat, and salt in your diet
- Limit your alcohol consumption
- Avoid smoking and second-hand smoke
- Do not use drugs not prescribed by your doctor
- If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, take steps to control it
- If you have diabetes, follow the treatment plan recommended by your doctor
- If you have obstructive sleep apnea, seek treatment
Frequently Asked Questions:
Difficulty speaking, with a numb or drooping face and a feeling of weakness in an arm or leg, is one of the major signs of a stroke. When the oxygen supply to your brain has been interrupted by a blood clot, you may have trouble speaking or be difficult to understand, or not able to speak at all.
Speech difficulties can result from problems with the brain or the nerves that control the facial muscles, larynx, and vocal cords necessary for speaking. Likewise, muscle diseases and conditions that affect the jaws, teeth, and mouth can affect speech.
A child or adult with dysarthria may have difficulty speaking, nasal sound, or hissing. a strained and hoarse voice, loud or silent speech.
Slurred speech - https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199808203390808
Slurred speech and spirochaetes - https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(09)60288-9/fulltext