What Causes Slurred Speech in Elderly (Dysarthria) and How is it Treated?

When you grow older some of your body functions do not work the way they used too. Your motor skill ability may decrease over the time.

Slurred speech in elderly occurs when there is a lack of coordination between the brain, tongue, mouth and vocal cord. The medical term for slurred speech is known as dysarthria.

It is characterized by abnormal speech with poor pronunciation of words, with change in speed of the speech and rhythm. Slurred speech and dizziness may be caused by dysarthria.

What Causes Slurred Speech in Elderly (Dysarthria) and How is it Treated?


Is Slurred Speech a Serious Health Condition?

 To understand this health condition, we must first look at what causes slurred speech. Slurred speech is when there is a disconnect between the motor functions of the brain and the mouth.

This can be caused by temporary exhaustion or alcohol intoxication, but also could be attributed to a stroke or something more severe.

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If your slurred speech lasts for more than just a temporary amount of time you should see a medical professional as soon as you can.

The psychological aspects of slurred speech can cause depression, social isolation, and difficulty working or going to school. Most people will experience mild cases of slurred speech in their lifetime.

Also Read: Why Does My Blood Pressure Fluctuate?


What Causes Slurred Speech?

 Slurred speech can be caused by any number of things. They usually are related to your circulatory system.

Slurred speech may also be caused by alcohol intoxication, temporary exhaustion, neural damage.

Below we will discuss some of the things that can cause slurred speech.

What causes slurred speech in elderly

1. Blood vessel in the brain

This may be minor and seem to go away on its own, but this is actually the sign of a more serious condition.

Usually, this is the warning sign of something that will come later on. It could potentially be debilitating and require immediate medical attention.

Strokes are one of the leading causes of slurred speech in the elderly.

2. Heart attack

This severely disrupts normal circulation of blood. It also causes pain, exhaustion, and shortness of breath, all of which interfere with speech.

3. Brain damage

Slurred speech after a stroke is the most common symptom of diagnosis and long lasting after effect. Physical damage to the brain, which disrupts its structure and workings.

Traumatic brain injury. Brain tumor, which crowds and displaces normal brain tissue.

4. Hypothermia

This is a severe drop in body temperature which slows the blood circulation and the brain’s functioning.

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5. Exhaustion

When you are extremely exhausted your brain functions slower. This then slows down motor functions and causes the disconnect between your brain and mouth.

6. Neurological

These cause gradual and progressive loss of coordination between nerves and muscles, making speech increasingly difficult.

If a brain tumor is present, then this may also put pressure on the motor functions of the brain. Huntington’s disease also causes slurred speech in people.

7. Dysarthria

This means that the muscles used for speech are weak or uncontrollable. Conditions causing facial paralysis. The overall weakness of the tongue and/or throat muscles.

8. Abnormal growth or injury to voice apparatus

Abnormal growths on or damage to, the vocal cords or throat can leave the voice sounding very different and sometimes hard to understand.

9. Medication, alcohol, drugs

Medications, supplements, alcohol intoxication and recreational drugs can slow the thought processes and interfere with the motor control needed for clear speech.

Intoxication will usually result in slurred speech that comes and goes.

10. Rare cases

An excess buildup of copper in the tissues. Progressive weakness of the muscles and loss of muscle mass. Damage to the brain caused by malformation, or by oxygen deprivation at birth.

11. Mental health conditions

Severe depression can make it hard to find the energy to speak, especially if the person is also medicated. Severe anxiety and panic can make it very difficult to speak.


Signs and Symptoms of Slurred Speech

 Symptoms of slurred speech are almost the same when looking at all the cases. Generally, slurred speech can be diagnosed from all of these symptoms.

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listed below are some possible signs and symptoms of slurred speech:

  • Poor speech that is difficult to comprehend
  • Slow or rapid speech
  • Difficulty is speaking loudly
  • Whispering while talking
  • Abnormal rhythm while speaking
  • Nasal twang in speech
  • Raspy strained speech
  • Uneven volume in speech
  • Monotone voice while talking
  • Limited movement of tongue and facial muscles
  • The duration of the symptoms – temporary or permanent.
  • The side of the mouth may drop slightly if the person is suffering from a stroke
  • The mouth will not be moving at the correct speed for what the person is trying to convey.

Complications

 Slurring of speech, if not corrected can lead to psychological and emotional disturbances. This means that the person suffering may have difficulty in social situations.

Over a period of time, the slurred speech can bring a gap in relationships in view of the inability to communicate properly.

Slurred speech can affect communication with close contacts, family, and friend and can make social situations challenging. It may also cause emotional issues.

Slurred speech can lead to emotional disturbances, social isolation, and depression. Whoever is suffering from slurred speech may not view themselves very highly which will cause them to have a lower self-esteem.

Depression is a common issue when looking at people who suffer from slurred speech. They will tend to avoid having any social interactions or communication if at all possible.


Treatment Options For Slurred Speech

Treatment Options For Slurred Speech

Treatment for slurred speech relies on early detection of the symptoms and a quick diagnosis. Depending on what is causing the slurred speech plays directly into how it is going to be treated.

After consulting a physician, they may suggest to you a few different treatment options. Listed below are treatment options for slurred speech:

1.Speech therapy

This will allow the person suffering from slurred speech to work with a professional and find a way to comfortably talk. They may also work on speech improvement.

2. Call 911

If the person is experiencing slurred speech, a severe headache, along with weakness and loss of use of part or all of one side of the body, call 911.

These symptoms indicate a stroke in progress and should be treated immediately.

3. Alternative

Alternative speech utilizes pictures, computer aid or visual cues. These allow the person suffering from slurred speech to convey their messages without using their voice.

This may also boost the mental health of the afflicted as it will allow them to talk without using their slurred speech.

4. Surgical intervention

Depending on how severe the case of slurred speech is, a doctor may suggest that surgery can help. This is dependent on what causes the slur, like an enlarged tongue, growth in the oral cavity.


How to Cope Up With Slurred Speech?

Slurred speech or slurred speech after a stroke is something that you can still live your everyday life with. There are a number of ways that you can get through the day and communicate with people in social settings.

If you have slurred speech just speak slower. This gives the listener a chance to comprehend and understand what you are trying to say.

Make your sentences concise, this prevents you from rambling on and confusing the listener with words. Know who you are talking to. You can generally see if someone is easily understanding you or not while talking to them.

Have a backup plan, keep a notebook on you to write stuff down, keep photos, use your cell phone to convey messages if they do not understand your words. Use sign language or gestures.

Physical communication is a great way to convey any message you need to get across.

Whatever the case may be, slurred speech can cause some difficulties in your daily life. Whether it is permanent or slurred speech that comes and goes, there are ways to cope with it.

When dealing with a diagnosis, time is important. If you believe someone is having a stroke, make sure you call 911 immediately as any delay can cause more damage.

Look into alternative speech methods to help you in social settings. You don’t need to let slurred speech control your life.


Sources:
Dysarthria. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. https://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/dysarthria/. Last accessed July 22, 2018.
Dysarthria in adults. American Speech-Language Hearing Association. https://www.asha.org/PRPPrintTemplate.aspx?folderid=8589943481. Last accessed July 22, 2018.
Signs and symptoms of untreated Lyme disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/signs_symptoms/index.html. Last accessed July 22, 2018.