Is Aphasia a Type of Dysarthria?

Reviewed on 4/13/2022
Is Aphasia a Type of Dysarthria?
Aphasia and dysarthria both cause impairment in communication, but they are different disorders.

Aphasia and dysarthria both cause impairment in communication, but they are different disorders. Aphasia is essentially a language impairment, while dysarthria is a speech impairment.

Aphasia is a language disorder caused by damage to an area of the brain that controls language expression and comprehension and leaves a person unable to communicate effectively with others.

Dysarthria is a speech disorder that usually results in slurred speech. A person knows what words they want to speak, but they may be difficult to understand due to muscle weakness or paralysis.

What Are Symptoms of Aphasia and Dysarthria?

Symptoms of aphasia can differ depending on the type of aphasia and may include: 

  • Broca aphasia (sometimes called expressive aphasia) involves damage to the front portion of the language-dominant side of the brain
    • Elimination of the words “and” and “the” 
    • Speaking in short, but meaningful, sentences
    • Can usually understand some speech of others
    • Often have right-sided weakness or paralysis of the arm and leg
  • Wernicke aphasia (sometimes called receptive aphasia) involves damage to the side portion of the language-dominant part of the brain
    • Speaking in long confusing sentences
    • Adding unnecessary words
    • Creating new words
    • Often have difficulty understanding the speech of others
  • Global aphasia involves damage to a large portion of the language-dominant side of the brain.
    • Difficulties with speaking or comprehending language

Symptoms of dysarthria may include:

  • Slurred or mumbled speech that may be difficult for others to understand
  • Speaking slowly
  • Speaking softly
  • Talking too fast
  • Inability to move the tongue, lips, and jaw properly
  • Sounding robotic or choppy
  • Voice changes 

What Causes Aphasia and Dysarthria?

The cause of aphasia is damage to the language-dominant side of the brain, usually the left side, and that may be a result of:

Dysarthria is caused by brain damage, which may be a result of conditions such as: 

How Are Aphasia and Dysarthria Diagnosed?

Both aphasia and dysarthria are diagnosed with patient history and consultation with a speech-language pathologist.

Aphasia and dysarthria may be diagnosed with a set of comprehensive speech and language tests such as: 

  • Speech study 
  • Naming
  • Repetition
  • Comprehension
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • How well do you move your mouth, lips, and tongue
  • How well you breathe
  • Listening to your speech in single words, sentences, and conversation
  • How well do you understand and talk

Imaging procedures to look at the brain may include: 

What Is the Treatment for Aphasia and Dysarthria?

Treatment for aphasia can vary based on:

  • The patient’s age, overall health, and medical history
  • The cause and extent of the disorder
  • Whether a person is left-handed or right-handed
  • The patient’s tolerance for specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the disorder
  • The patient’s opinion or preference and motivation

Treatment for aphasia is aimed at improving the patient’s ability to communicate through methods that may include:

  • Speech-language therapy
  • Nonverbal communication therapies, such as computers or pictures
  • Group therapy for patients and their families

Treatment for dysarthria can vary based on the underlying condition and specific speech patterns present. Techniques useful for people with dysarthria include:

  • Slowing down speech
  • Speaking at a louder volume
  • Practice over-pronouncing sounds and words
  • Using more breath to speak
  • Exercises to make the mouth and tongue muscles stronger 
  • Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) for severe cases when others are not able to understand a person’s speech
    • It may be as simple as a pen and paper, or high-tech such as speech-generating devices and computers

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Reviewed on 4/13/2022
Image Source: iStock Images