Difficulty with speech can be the result of problems with the brain or nerves that control the facial muscles, larynx, and vocal cords necessary for speech. Likewise, muscular diseases and conditions that affect the jaws, teeth, and mouth can impair speech. Some conditions that affect speech are present at birth (such as inborn muscular conditions and congenital anatomical abnormalities), while others are the result of metabolic diseases, infections, tumors, or injury. Abnormalities of the vocal cords such as inflammation, polyps, cysts, and tumors can affect the pitch and quality of the voice.
A number of different types of speech impediments can occur, and many terms have been used to qualify speech disorders. Aphasia is the loss of the ability to understand language, whether spoken or written, and occurs due to disturbances in the areas of the brain that are used in language processing. Dysarthria refers to a difficulty in pronouncing certain sounds or words that is usually due to a problem with muscle control. People with dysarthria exhibit slurred speech and may have problems with swallowing. Spasmodic dysphonia is a condition characterized by difficulty speaking because of repetitive or continuous spasms (dystonia) of the muscles that control the vocal cords. Apraxia of speech, also known as verbal apraxia or dyspraxia, is a speech disorder in which a person has trouble saying what he or she wants to say correctly and consistently.
Because of the numerous types of speech difficulty that can arise from various disease processes, the list of conditions that can cause difficulty with speech is very broad.
Other causes of difficulty with speech
- Cognitive Disability
- Communication Disorders
- Developmental Apraxia of Speech
- Facial Trauma
- Head and Neck Cancer Surgery
- Head Trauma
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Poorly Fitting Dentures
- Selective Mutism
- Vocal Cord Polyps
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Causes of Difficulty With Speech
Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM)
Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a condition that affects the nervous system, causing weakening of the muscles and reflexes. Adenoviruses, poliovirus, non-polio enteroviruses, and West Nile virus can cause AFM. Symptoms and signs include drooping eyelids, difficulty swallowing and moving the eyes, facial weakness, and slurred speech. There is no treatment for acute flaccid myelitis.
Alcoholism is a disease that includes alcohol craving and continued drinking despite repeated alcohol-related problems, such as losing a job or getting into trouble with the law. It can cause myriad health problems, including cirrhosis of the liver, birth defects, heart disease, stroke, psychological problems, and dementia. Counseling and a few medications can be effective for alcoholism treatment.
ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) Symptoms, Causes, Life Expectancy
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease) is a neurological disease that progresses rapidly. The disease attacks the nerve cells responsible for the control of voluntary muscles. Early symptoms include cramping, twitching, or stiffness of the muscles; slurred nasal speech; difficulty swallowing or chewing, and muscle weakness in an arm or leg. Currently, the cause of ALS is not known. ALS is a fatal disease. No cure has been found for ALS, however, the drug riluzole (Rilutek) is FDA approved, and this drug reduces the damage to motor neurons by decreasing the release of glutamate.
Angelman syndrome is a genetic disorder that results from the absence of a functional copy of the UBE3A gene inherited from the mother. Infants with Angelman syndrome often have feeding problems and exhibit noticeable developmental delays by six to 12 months of age. Other symptoms include seizures, hyperactivity, speech impairment, small head size, sleep disorders, and movement and balance disorders. There is no specific treatment or therapy for Angelman syndrome.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (In Children and Adults)
Autism in children and adults is a developmental disorder, characterized by impaired development in communication, social interaction, and behavior. Autism is classified as a pervasive developmental disorder (PDD), which is part of a broad spectrum of developmental disorders affecting young children and adults. There are numerous theories and studies about the cause of autism. The treatment model for autism is an educational program that is suitable to an individual's developmental level of performance. There is no "cure" for autism.
Bell's Palsy (Facial Nerve Problems) Paralysis Causes and Treatments
Bell's palsy is one type of facial nerve paralysis. The 7th cranial nerve controls the muscles of the face, and although scientists do not know the exact cause of Bell's palsy, they think it may be due to nerve damage from an infection, for example, the flu, common cold viruses, and more serious infections like meningitis. The symptoms of Bell's palsy vary from person to person, but can include mild weakness to total paralysis, dry eye, dry mouth, eyelid drooping, drooling, mouth drooping, dry mouth, changes in taste, and excessive tearing in one eye. People with Bell's palsy usually don't need medical treatment, however, drugs like steroids, for example, prednisone seem to be effective in reducing swelling and inflammation are used when medical is necessary. Most people with Bell's palsy begin to recover within two weeks after the initial onset of symptoms. Full recovery may take three to six months.
Botulism is an illness caused by a neurotoxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. There are three types of botulism: food-borne, wound, and infant. Symptoms include muscle paralysis, dry mouth, constipation, slurred speech, and blurred vision. If food-borne and wound botulism are detected early enough, they may be treated with an antitoxin. Infant botulism is treated intravenously with BabyBIG (Botulism Immune Globulin).
Brain Damage: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment
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Cleft Palate and Cleft Lip
Cleft palate and cleft lip are facial and oral defects that occur early in pregnancy. A cleft lip is a split of the two sides of the upper lip, and a cleft palate is a split in the roof of the mouth. Cleft lip the fourth most common birth defect in the U.S. Repair of a cleft palate or cleft lip may require multiple surgeries.
Cocaine and Crack Abuse
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Concussion is a short-lived loss of brain function that is due to head trauma. There are two types of concussion, simple and complex. Symptoms of concussion include headache, nausea, dizziness, dazed feeling, irritability, visual symptoms. Physical signs include poor concentration, emotional changes, slurred speech, and personality changes. Concussion is diagnosed with physical examination and testing. Treatment for concussion in general are treatment for control of the symptoms, and time.
Dementia is defined as a significant loss of intellectual abilities such as memory capacity, severe enough to interfere with social or occupational functioning. There are several different types of dementia, including cortical, subcortical, progressive, primary, and secondary dementias. Other conditions and medication reactions can also cause dementia. Dementia is diagnosed based on a certain set of criteria. Treatment for dementia is generally focused on the symptoms of the disease.
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Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)
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Early Warning Signs and Symptoms of Stroke (FAST)
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Head Injury (Brain Injury)
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Hearing loss (deafness) may be present at birth or it may manifest later in life. Deafness may be genetic or due to damage from noise. Treatment of deafness depends upon its cause. Sensorineural hearing loss can be caused by conditions affecting the: cochlea, eighth cranial nerve, spinal cord, or brain. Examples of conditions that can lead to sensorineural hearing loss include: Meniere's disease, noise-induced hearing loss hearing loss of aging (presbycusis), nerve injury from syphilis, hearing loss of unknown cause (idiopathic hearing loss), nerve tumors, and drug toxicity (such as aspirin and aminoglycosides).
Huntington's disease is the result of degeneration of neurons in areas of the brain. Huntington's disease is an inherited disorder. Early symptoms include mood swings, apathy, depression, and anger uncharacteristic of the individual. Judgement, memory, and other cognitive functions may become impaired. Presymptomatic testing is available for individuals who have a family history of Huntington's disease. Treatment includes medication and therapy for symptoms.
Laryngitis is an inflammation of the voice box (vocal cords). The most common cause of acute laryngitis is infection, which inflames the vocal cords. Symptoms may vary from degree of laryngitis and age of the person (laryngitis in infants and children is more commonly caused by croup). Common symptoms include a "barky" cough, a hoarse cough, fever, cold, runny nose, dry cough, and loss of voice. Chronic laryngitis generally lasts more than three weeks. Causes other than infection include smoking, excess coughing, GERD, and more. Treatment depends on the cause of laryngitis.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms vary from person to person, and can last for days to months without periods of remission. Symptoms of MS include sexual problems and problems with the bowel, bladder, eyes, muscles, speech, swallowing, brain, and nervous system. The early symptoms and signs of multiple sclerosis usually start between age 20 and 40. MS in children, teens, and those over age 40 is rare. Treatment options for multiple sclerosis vary depending on the type and severity of symptoms. Medications may be prescribed to manage MS symptoms.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Life Expectancy
Multiple sclerosis or MS is an autoimmune disorder in which brain and spinal cord nerve cells become demyelinated. This damage results in symptoms that may include numbness, weakness, vertigo, paralysis, and involuntary muscle contractions. Different forms of MS can follow variable courses from relatively benign to life-threatening. MS is treated with disease-modifying therapies. Some MS symptoms can be treated with medications.
Myasthenia gravis, a chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disease. Varying degrees of weakness of the voluntary muscles of the body are the main characteristics. A defect in the transmission of nerve impulses of the muscles is the cause of myasthenia gravis. Myasthenic crisis is when the muscles that control breathing weaken, which requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms include weakness of the eye muscles, facial expression, and difficulty swallowing. Treatment of myasthenia gravis includes medical therapies to control the symptoms of the disease.
Parkinson's disease is a slowly progressive neurological disease characterized by a fixed inexpressive face, a tremor at rest, slowing of voluntary movements, a gait with short accelerating steps, peculiar posture and muscle weakness, caused by degeneration of an area of the brain called the basal ganglia, and by low production of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Most patients are over 50, but at least 10 percent are under 40.
Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which the person has seizures. There are two kinds of seizures, focal and generalized. There are many causes of epilepsy. Treatment of epilepsy (seizures) depends upon the cause and type of seizures experienced.
A stroke is an interruption of the blood supply to part of the brain caused by either a blood clot (ischemic) or bleeding (hemorrhagic). Symptoms of a stroke may include: weakness, numbness, double vision or vision loss, confusion, vertigo, difficulty speaking or understanding speech. A physical exam, imaging tests, neurological exam, and blood tests may be used to diagnose a stroke. Treatment may include administration of clot-busting drugs, supportive care, and in some instances, neurosurgery. The risk of stroke can be reduced by controlling high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and stopping smoking.
Stuttering is a speech disorder characterized by speech disruptions such as prolongations of speech sounds, syllables or words, frequent repetitions, or the inability to start a word. Over 3 million Americans stutter, and boys are more likely to stutter than girls. Stuttering may be developmental, neurogenic, psychogenic, or even genetically determined. Treatment for stuttering may incorporate stuttering therapy with a speech-language pathologist and educating the parents about restructuring the child's speaking environment.
Teen Drug Abuse
Drugs commonly abused by teens include tobacco products, marijuana, cold medications, inhalants, depressants, stimulants, narcotics, hallucinogens, PCP, ketamine, Ecstasy, and anabolic steroids. Some of the symptoms and warning signs of teen drug abuse include reddened whites of eyes, paranoia, sleepiness, excessive happiness, seizures, memory loss, increased appetite, discolored fingertips, lips or teeth, and irritability. Treatment of drug addiction may involve a combination of medication, individual, and familial interventions.
Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA, Mini-Stroke)
When a portion of the brain loses blood supply, through a blood clot or embolus, a transient ischemic attack (TIA, mini-stroke) may occur. If the symptoms do not resolve, a stroke most likely has occurred. Symptoms of TIA include: confusion, weakness, lethargy, and loss of function to one side of the body. Risk factors for TIA include vascular disease, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Treatment depends upon the severity of the TIA, and whether it resolves.