Dysarthria Definition, Signs, Causes and The Most Advantageous Treatment Methods
Speech disorders can be caused by a variety of factors, which include traumatic brain injuries (TBI), stroke, tumors, or any other conditions that tend to damage the brain.
One of the mentioned speech disorders is dysarthria. It arises due to muscle weaknesses that may significantly affect a person’s ability to talk. Like many similar disorders, this one can vary from mild to severe stages.
Thanks to the medical development, dysarthria can be successfully treated. Apart from speech therapies, which are often recommended by the specialists, acupuncture is the method widely used for treating such conditions.
Acupuncture is extremely beneficial for treating neurological diseases of the muscular-skeletal system, which means that it can help all the patients who’re dealing with this particular speech disorder.
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What is Dysarthria?
Dysarthria is defined as a condition in which the muscles you use for speaking are weak, or you have difficulty controlling them.
We use a variety of muscles to talk – they are found on our face, lips, tongue, throat, and they also include the muscles necessary for breathing. Accordingly, we find it much more difficult to talk when such muscles are affected by brain damage.
Dysarthria vs. Aphasia
Many people cannot distinguish between the terms of dysarthria and aphasia. Namely, both terms are used to describe a particular speech disorder caused by brain damage, but they still differ in some respects.
The main difference between these two conditions is the following – aphasia refers to a language disorder, while dysarthria describes a speech disorder. That means that patients with aphasia often know what they want to say but can’t find the appropriate words, as if they were on the “tip of the tongue.”
Besides, they may also have impairments in understanding, reading, or writing.
Dysarthria, on the other hand, affects the muscles used for talking without causing troubles in a person’s abilities to understand the meaning of the words and the use of grammar.
What are the Frequent Causes of Dysarthria?
This condition can be caused by many underlying diseases that somehow affect the muscles in your mouth. Such diseases and factors may include the following:
- Brain injuries
- Brain tumor
- Cerebral palsy
- Head injury
- Huntington’s disease
- Lyme disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscular dystrophy
- Parkinson’s disease
- Wilson’s disease
Some medications, narcotics and sedatives may impact the development of this condition, as well. If that’s the case, you should talk to your doctor and suggest the change of your current therapy.
What are the Common Dysarthria Types?
There are eight main types of dysarthria, and they’re categorized according to their common causes and symptoms. They include:
- Spastic dysarthria: This particular type is often caused by cerebellar lesions, such as stroke, TBI, or muscular sclerosis. Patients with such disorder speak slowly, and their voice is low-pitched, harsh and monotonous.
- Ataxic dysarthria: This type of dysarthria arises due to the damage of the cerebellum, which is responsible for motor control. It results in alterations of the regular timing pattern and a tendency to equalize the duration of syllables while speaking.
- Flaccid dysarthria: This type represents a motor speech disorder caused by damage to the peripheral nervous system. Flaccid dysarthria often affects respiration, phonation, articulation, and resonance.
- Hypokinetic dysarthria: This type is caused by Parkinson’s disease, and it often results in the lack of variability in a person’s voice pitch or loudness.
- Hyperkinetic dysarthria: The hyperkinetic form is often characterized by abnormal involuntary movements that affect phonatory, respiratory and articulatory structures, which later have a negative impact on communication.
- Mixed dysarthria: A mixed condition represents damage that expanded to more than one area, resulting in different speech problems.
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What are the Dysarthria Symptoms?
Signs that may indicate the development of dysarthria mostly depend on the factor that caused it and the condition type.
You should see your doctor if you notice that some of the following symptoms suddenly appear:
- Slow speech
- Slurred speech
- Inability to speak loudly
- Your speech is rapid and difficult to understand
- A nasal or strained voice
- The uneven or abnormal rhythm of the speech
- Monotonous speech
- Having difficulties while moving your tongue or facial muscles.
What About Dysarthria in Children?
Dysarthria can affect children, as well. The following signs may imply to particular problems your child may be facing, which is why you shouldn’t ignore them:
- 2-year-old children: If you notice that your 2-year-old kid has no real words in his/her vocabulary, even if he/she understands you, you are advised to consult your doctor.
- 4-year-old children: If your child who’s four years old often says “I go” instead of “I do,” or mispronounces some simple words, don’t wait for too long but see your doctor.
- 5-year-old children: If your 5-year-old child speaks slowly, sometimes saying the word correctly and sometimes not, you should do a further examination and detect the potential issue.
- 6-year-old children: If you see that your six-year-old son or daughter has quite low muscle tone, distorts /s/ sounds, and their mouth is frequently open, consult your healthcare practitioner and ask for future examinations.
Even though most parents find it “cute” when their children mispronounce the words or make up new ones, they should pay a lot of attention to it. Such habits may imply a deeper problem that may be existing, and which, if detected early, has more chances to be solved.
Dysarthria in children may manifest in three types – childhood apraxia of speech (CAS), pediatric dysarthria, and severe phonological disorder.
Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS)
Childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) represents a motor speech disorder, which occurs due to a deficit in motor planning and programming speech movements.
This means that children often know what they want to say, but they aren’t able to plan the motor movements or move the necessary muscles at the right speed at the right time. It’s often difficult to recognize the signs of CAS, especially if your child speaks little; still, you should visit your doctor if you notice that your child has some of the following symptoms:
- Speech inconsistency: This happens when your child makes inconsistent errors on consonants and vowels when repeating the production of syllables in particular words.
- Syllable segregation: Your child will probably make “gaps” between syllables while speaking.
- Inappropriate prosody: Some researches have proven that the deficit in motor planning causes errors in lexical stress.
Pediatric dysarthria comes as a result of neuromuscular weakness, incoordination, or paralysis of the muscles necessary for speech production.
There are different forms of pediatric dysarthria, and they all bring different signs. For example, your child may have too much or too little low tone, as well as the problems with prosody, articulation, and resonance.
Severe Phonological Disorder
A child with phonological disorders hasn’t learned how to put the sounds together so that they can form real words. Phonological disorders fall under the category of language-based problems, and not the motor-based ones.
This problem is usually observed when children make the following errors:
- d/g: do/go.
- t/k: tup/cup.
When such speech issues are detected early, the chances of their improvement are quite enhanced. Apart from typical speech therapies, which are usually recommended by doctors, many experts consider pediatric acupuncture as one of the efficient treatments that can help children with speech disorders.
Pediatric acupuncture includes the use of very gentle methods, aimed at stimulating particular acupoints that significantly improve children’s health. The procedure is entirely safe and pain-free, bringing long-term effects.
Certified acupuncture practitioners offer herbal therapies and moxibustion as additional treatments for dysarthria in children.
How is Dysarthria Diagnosed?
As soon as you notice some of the symptoms mentioned earlier, you are advised to visit your neurologist and determine whether you or your child have dysarthria.
Apart from a physical exam, which is often performed, your doctor may conduct the following tests as well:
- Imaging tests: Imaging tests are beneficial because they provide a full image of your brain, neck and head. That way, they help identify the cause of your speech problem.
- Electroencephalogram (EEG) test: EEG test will measure the electrical activity in your bran, which helps evaluate how fast and strong electrical signals are as they travel through your nerves to your muscles.
- Blood and urine tests: Such tests are vital for determining whether infectious or inflammatory diseases are the cause of your problem.
- Lumbar puncture (Spinal tap): This procedure involves the insertion of a needle to your lower back to remove a sample of cerebrospinal fluid for later laboratory testing. The sample is vital for diagnosing severe infections of the central nervous system, and cancers of the brain.
- Brain biopsy: If your doctor suspects on a brain tumor, he/she may remove a small sample of your brain tissue and conduct the necessary testing.
- Neuropsychological tests: By measuring your cognitive (thinking) skills, which include the ability o understand speech, reading, and writing, doctors will know whether you have dysarthria or some other underlying condition that affects your cognitive skills.
People who’re diagnosed with this condition will adopt a dysarthria ICD 10 R47.1 code, which can be used to indicate a diagnosis for reimbursement purposes.
What is the Best Dysarthria Treatment?
The main goal of both doctors and patients is retrieving the speech ability and finding reliable modes of communication, which is why they will do their best to find adequate ways of assessing the issue.
Your doctor will probably recommend the treatment based on the severity of the disorder, natural history and the existence of the underlying disease that’s considered responsible for your speech problem.
Accordingly, you may consider some of the following treatments:
Acupuncture for Dysarthria
Traditional Chinese medicine has brought a lot of benefits to treating the diseases that are considered incurable. One of the approaches that originate from the TCM is acupuncture. Even though it’s primarily known as a pain relief therapy, it has delivered outstanding results in treating other neurological, pediatric and eye conditions that involve a lot of complications that can’t be treated even with contemporary medical methods.
Acupuncturists will perform a procedure that involves the insertion of small, thin, and sterile stainless steel needles into specific acupoints on the body. Such stimulation can improve blood flow and eliminate muscle stiffness, which is beneficial for overall health.
Practitioners usually decide to implement scalp acupuncture, which is considered the best for treating neurological diseases. Scalp acupuncture represents a powerful combination of neurological approaches and Eastern medicine, and it is particularly useful for treating head traumas, stroke, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s, dementia, and speech disorders.
However, some recent researches have proven the efficacy of acupuncture for dysarthria that involves the insertion of needles in acupoints around tongue, throat, and neck, including the empirical points as well.
So far, acupuncture has provided remarkable results in helping people to recover from a stroke or severe brain injuries that have affected their health. The recovery process may be slow and gradual, which is why it’s vital to remain patient and persistent.
Not all the patients will need the same number of treatments, and not all of them will respond the same to therapies. The amount of sessions will mostly depend on a person’s condition, which will be determined by your practitioner.
Standard treatment for dysarthria in adults and children will include speech and language therapies, which are considered vital for regaining normal speech and improving communication.
Typical speech therapies will include adjusting speech rate, strengthening muscles, improving articulation, increasing breath support, and helping friends and family members learn how to communicate with you.
According to experts, the best improvements will come when combining acupuncture treatments with language and speech therapies. Such combination will enhance your communication abilities and bring quicker and more efficient results that usually have a long-term effect.
Depending on your condition, language and speech therapies may include various dysarthria treatment exercises that focus on different aspects of speech.
For example, your treatment may be targeted to respiration, phonation, articulation, resonance, or prosody – each of the aspects will be practiced through different activities that will help you improve your speaking abilities and acquire plenty of communication strategies vital for everyday situations.