Dysarthria is an MS speech impediment

Dysarthria is an MS speech impediment

A condition which, in the early days, I referred to as dyslexia of the mouth. It used to make my GP laugh. But, it is completely inaccurate in describing my tripping over my tongue. The correct terminology is dysarthria.

How to Deal with dysarthria speech problems in Multiple Sclerosis

I was of the opinion that the correct name was Ataxia but my GP disagreed.

However, after researching on the Web I find that Speech Ataxia, Dysphasia, Aphasia, and Dysarthria are all speech impairments.

These can all be brought about by Multiple Sclerosis, and they all exhibit traits that are not dissimilar.


I have recently received an email (14 Sep 2008) clarifying what I have stated above. A very helpful lady who is a speech-language pathologist from Canada has told me that dysphasia is now an obsolete term, aphasia is indeed a speech deficit but not associated with MS.

Dysarthria is the correct term for the condition experienced with multiple sclerosis.

Ataxia, Dysphasia, Aphasia

Express Yourself

She has suggested the following wording: “Researching on the Web would suggest that dysarthria can be brought about by Multiple Sclerosis and affects speech production. One type of dysarthria that is common in MS is speech ataxia. You might read about aphasia, but this is not the same speech impediment at all. Rather, this affects language and the way words and sentences are put together and understood. People with aphasia and MS can both have aphasia but aphasia cannot be caused by MS”.

There are four main types of this speech deficit:

  • Dyskinetic dysarthria poor articulation or slurred speech.
  • Spastic Dysarthria weakness of the muscles invlolved with speech.
  • Peripheral Dysarthria caused by poor airflow in the throat and through the larynx.
  • Mixed Dysarthria see above.

A person with this problem may experience any or all of the following symptoms:

  • Slurred Speech
  • Speaking softly, barely audible
  • slow rate of speech
  • rapid rate of mumbling speech
  • limited tongue, lip, and jaw movement
  • abnormal intonation
  • hoarseness
  • breathiness
  • drooling or poor control of saliva
  • chewing or swallowing difficulty

There are a number of neurological conditions that could result in the onset of speech problems:

  • Stroke
  • Brain Injury
  • Tumours
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Parkinson?s Disease
  • ALS
  • Huntington?s Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Treatments for Dysarthria

The main course of treatment is likely to be therapy to try and improve speech quality. Possibly involving a speech-language pathologist. The most immediate action you can take for yourself is to practice slowing your speech. This serves two purposes:

  1. Allows careful articulation of each word.
  2. The MS brain may be reluctant to recall words so you need time to formulate the sentence.

I experience dysarthria first-hand. However, it is not so bad that I cannot make myself understood. If I take my time and speak slowly and carefully.

However, my friend, on the other hand, has PPMS and quite severe dysarthria. His speech is very stilted. And he can often only deliver one word at a time. The frustration he feels is painful to watch.

Furthermore, he is an intelligent man with a gift for words. He is an author and a talented proofreader. His inability to express himself audibly causes him great pain and consternation.

I am not drunk, I have MS

This has become the plaintive cry of the struggling MSer. And, only this morning, as I stumbled across the kitchen trying not to spill my cup of coffee, I thought of a new spin on this old saying.

I am drunk, even though I am alcohol-free. It’s a question of “If the cap fits?” I look, drunk, I sound intoxicated and I feel as if I have been on a drinking binge. But, I am tee-total. Life just isn’t fair.

Another possible meaning of the word “drunk” is that I am dominated by an intense feeling or emotion. But that doesn’t fit either. My speech and my thinking are impaired because my brain is being damaged by MS.

Furthermore, I was often accused by my wife, of being drunk when she phoned home. Because apparently, my slurred speech is more pronounced on the telephone.

However, all of this rambling is distracting me from concluding this post about dysarthria. A welcome distraction perhaps. But, another annoying habit of a cognitively challenged MS-addled brain.

And, as if all of that wasn’t bad enough, I awaken most mornings with the hangover from hell. Despite my protestations of being tee-total.

In conclusion, when you are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, you will know you have been dealt a fairly poor hand. However, life goes on and you can make a success of it.

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External Links

Multiple Sclerosis Encyclopaedia
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

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