Woman with bandaids over her lips
Getty/UpperCut Images/Charlie Schuck

Definition: Anarthria (a náarthree ə) is the most severe form of dysarthria that results in the loss of articulate speech.  It is due to a loss of neuromuscular control of the speech muscles. Patients with anarthria have the motivation to speak but are unable to do so. Dysarthria, also known as dysarthosis, is a motor speech disorder that affects the muscles used for speech production. The muscles include the lips, tongue, vocal folds, and diaphragm.

Types of Dysarthria

All types of dysarthria are characterized by slurring of speech. Vowels may be distorted. The level of dysarthria depends on the degree of damage to the neurological system.

  • Spastic dysarthria– caused by damage to the pyramidal tract
  • Hyperkinetic dysarthria – caused by lesions of the basal ganglia
  • Hypokinetic dysarthria – associated with Parkinson’s disease
  • Ataxic dysarthria – caused by damage to the cerebellar control circuit
  • Flaccid dysarthria – caused by damage to the cranial nerves
  • Mixed dysarthria – caused by damage to the upper or lower motor neurons

Causes of Dysarthria

Dysarthria and the more severe form, anarthria, is caused by brain damage. The most common causes of dysarthria include disorders of the neurological system such as stroke or brain injury. It can also occur during birth, as seen in cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy.  It may occur later in life due to one of the following conditions that involve the nervous system:

Certain medications, such as narcotics or sedatives, can also cause dysarthria.

Symptoms of Dysarthria

Patients with dysarthria demonstrate the following characteristics of speech:

  • Slowed rate of speech
  • Mumbling quality to speech that is difficult to understand
  • Limited movement of the tongue, lip, and jaw
  • Abnormal vocal pitch
  • Abnormal rhythm to speech
  • Hoarseness or breathiness to speech
  • Nasal or stuffy sounding speech
  • Inability to speak loudly

Diagnosis of Dysarthria

Dysarthria and its more severe form, anarthria, is diagnosed by a medical professional. After a thorough medical examination, the following diagnostic tests may be performed:

As a result of a stroke, the speech muscles become too weak or too tight and the stroke patient struggles to move them to speak.

Treatment of Dysarthria

A speech language pathologist will evaluate the patient and identify the treatment needed. A variety of techniques will be used during treatment. If muscles are weak, strengthening exercises are appropriate. If muscles have too much tone, other exercises will be used. Typically treatment includes incorporating relaxation techniques, lingual, labial and mandibular exercises, including isometrics, and phonetic stimulation.

Dysarthria can disappear a few months after the stroke. If it is still present, a more rigid therapy program will be suggested. The goal is to bring back normal speech patterns and provide the patient with a more independent and confident way of living.

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