Imagine suddenly finding it hard to communicate, your words not coming out as smoothly as they used to. This can be a startling experience, not just for the person affected but for their loved ones as well. Slurred speech, medically known as dysarthria, is a condition characterized by slow, slurred, or garbled speech that can be difficult to understand. It often signals an underlying health issue affecting the brain, nerves, or muscles involved in speaking.

This article explains the causes of slurred speech, its potential complications, diagnostic procedures, treatment options, and preventive measures. 

What is Slurred Speech?

Slurred speech or dysarthria occurs when the muscles you use for speaking are weak or difficult to control. It can affect anyone, varying in severity from mild to severe, and can be temporary or permanent. Understanding its causes is the first step towards seeking appropriate care and treatment.

Common Causes of Slurred Speech

Overworked tired employee at workplace in office being unhappy

Before exploring the specific causes, it’s crucial to recognize that slurred speech is often a symptom of conditions that impair the brain’s ability to communicate with the muscles involved in speech. 

Here are some common causes of slurred speech:

Stroke or TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack)

Strokes and TIAs are leading causes of slurred speech. They occur when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted, affecting speech muscles’ control. Symptoms include sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body, confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech, and loss of balance or coordination.

Bell’s Palsy

Bell’s palsy is a condition that causes temporary weakness or paralysis of the facial muscles, often affecting speech. Symptoms include sudden weakness on one side of the face, drooping mouth or eyelid, and difficulty making facial expressions.

Brain Tumor

Brain tumors can pressure parts of the brain responsible for speech, leading to slurred speech. Other symptoms might include headaches, seizures, nausea, and changes in personality or behavior.

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects the central nervous system, disrupting communication between the brain and the body, including speech muscles. Symptoms include fatigue, difficulty walking, numbness, and muscle stiffness.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neurological disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, leading to loss of muscle control. Slurred speech may be an early symptom, eventually progressing to difficulty swallowing and breathing.


Some people experience slurred speech as a symptom of a migraine, especially if they have a variant known as a hemiplegic migraine, which can also cause temporary paralysis or weakness on one side of the body.

What are the Complications of Slurred Speech?

When speech becomes difficult to understand, it can lead to a cascade of social, emotional, and health-related consequences. 

Here’s a deeper look into the potential complications associated with slurred speech:

Social Isolation

Individuals experiencing slurred speech may find social interactions increasingly challenging. The difficulty in being understood can lead to frustration, both for the speaker and the listener. This can potentially result in withdrawal from social activities and isolation.

Emotional and Psychological Impact

The inability to communicate effectively or the frustration of not being able to express oneself clearly can also contribute to feelings of embarrassment, lowered self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.

Misunderstandings and Communication Breakdowns

Slurred speech can lead to misunderstandings in both personal and professional contexts. Important messages may not be conveyed accurately, leading to confusion and potential conflicts. This can affect relationships, job performance, and day-to-day interactions.

Reduced Quality of Life

The cumulative effect of social isolation, emotional distress, and frequent misunderstandings can significantly reduce one’s quality of life. It may affect personal relationships, career opportunities, and the ability to engage in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyable.

Safety Risks

In some cases, slurred speech can pose safety risks. For example, during emergencies, being unable to communicate effectively can be life-threatening. It may also affect a person’s ability to express pain, discomfort, or the need for help in medical situations.

Difficulty with Daily Tasks

Tasks that require clear communication, such as making phone calls, ordering food, or interacting with service providers, can become challenging. This can lead to increased dependence on others and a sense of loss of independence.

Complications Related to Underlying Causes

Since slurred speech is often a symptom of underlying health issues, it’s important to consider the complications associated with these conditions, such as stroke, neurological disorders, or brain injuries. The severity and permanence of slurred speech can vary depending on the root cause, potentially leading to additional health complications if not adequately addressed.

How is Slurred Speech Diagnosed?

girl looking at the card says sounds.

Diagnosing slurred speech involves a comprehensive approach to identify its underlying causes and assess the extent of speech impairment. 

Here’s how healthcare professionals typically diagnose slurred speech:

1. Medical History and Physical Examination

The process begins with a detailed medical history and a physical examination. A healthcare provider will inquire about the onset of symptoms, their duration, and any other associated symptoms. They will also review the patient’s medical history for conditions that could contribute to slurred speech, such as neurological disorders, recent injuries, or a history of stroke.

2. Neurological Assessment

A neurological examination may be conducted to evaluate the brain and nervous system’s function. This assessment helps identify any signs of neurological disorders that could be causing the slurred speech. The examination includes testing muscle strength, reflexes, sensation, coordination, and balance.

3. Speech Evaluation

A speech-language pathologist (SLP) may perform a speech evaluation to determine the severity of the slurred speech and how it affects the patient’s ability to communicate. This evaluation assesses speech clarity, fluency, volume, and pitch. The SLP may also examine the patient’s ability to understand language, use appropriate words, and construct sentences.

4. Imaging Tests

Imaging tests such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or Computed Tomography (CT) scans can provide detailed images of the brain and are useful in identifying stroke, brain tumors, or other structural abnormalities that could be causing slurred speech.

5. Additional Tests

Depending on the suspected cause, additional tests may be recommended. For example, blood tests can help identify infections, inflammation, or metabolic conditions. Electromyography (EMG) may be used to assess the health of muscles and the nerve cells that control them, which can be helpful in diagnosing conditions like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

6. Referrals to Specialists

In some cases, referrals to other specialists such as neurologists, otolaryngologists (ear, nose, and throat doctors), or other medical professionals may be necessary to further investigate and diagnose the underlying cause of slurred speech.

How is Slurred Speech Treated?

Treatment depends on the underlying cause. It may involve medications, surgery, or therapies like speech and language therapy to improve speech function and communication skills. Speech therapy is particularly crucial for helping individuals adapt to or improve their speech difficulties.

Additionally, for conditions like stroke or neurological disorders, physical therapy and occupational therapy may also be part of the comprehensive treatment plan to enhance overall motor skills and daily functioning.

Can Slurred Speech Be Prevented?

While not all causes can be prevented, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can minimize the risk of stroke and other neurological conditions that might lead to slurred speech. This means controlling blood pressure, avoiding excessive alcohol consumption, and managing diabetes. Regular health check-ups and prompt treatment of any emerging health issues are also key to prevention.

Can You Recover from Slurred Speech?

close up of patient and doctor taking notes

Recovery from slurred speech varies. It is typically influenced by the root cause and symptom intensity. Conditions such as Bell’s palsy, for instance, frequently lead to complete recuperation, whereas chronic ailments like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) typically result in a gradual worsening of speech capabilities. The prognosis and potential for improvement or stabilization heavily rely on timely and appropriate medical intervention, including rehabilitation efforts like speech therapy.

Should I Go to the ER for Slurred Speech?

Yes, slurred speech can be a sign of a stroke or other serious conditions requiring immediate medical attention. A quick response can significantly improve the outcome.

The Journey to Recovery: The Role of Emergency Care

Understanding what causes slurred speech is helpful, but even more crucial is knowing when to go to an ER if you or someone you know experiences sudden slurred speech. When this happens, it’s critical to seek medical attention from emergency medical care experts like Aether Health – SilverLake ER in Pearland, TX. 

If you’re experiencing symptoms of slurred speech or recognize them in someone else, visit Aether Health – SilverLake ER. Our team of emergency care specialists is equipped to provide rapid assessment and treatment, so you receive the care you need when every second counts. Trust Aether Health – SilverLake ER to support your health and well-being with expert emergency care services in Pearland available 24/7.