Parkinson’s Disease and Dysarthria

November 12, 2012


Do you know someone who has parkinson disease? Do they have dysarthria? What is dysarthria?

Parkinson disease is a debilitating neurological disease that affects the way an individual moves. This genetic disease is found in an area of the brain that contains neurons that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine cells connect to other parts of the brain involved with motor movements. This transmitter allows your muscles to move in a concerted fashion and smoothly which is under voluntary control. In parkinson disease these dopamine neurons begin to breakdown and die, then motor movement problems set in. This neurological disease is progressive (gets worse over time) however, it tends to progress at a relatively slow rate. There are modern therapies available that have some success with returning some motor movements.

Genetic Predisposition

The underlying mechanism in parkinson disease is not well understood at this time. With some individuals, abnormal genes are responsible for the breakdown of these dopamine neurons however, in others its not so clear. In some cases, it appears to be toxins or other environmental conditions that have contributed to the disease. It is likely that there are multiple causes, but that remains to be proven.

Parkinson Symptoms

There are 4 main symptoms observed in parkinson disease which involve tremor, stiff muscles, slow movements and problems balancing. Dysarthria, a speech problem, is also observed in some patients. Symptoms generally show up within the 5th or 6th decade of life (50 to 60 years old).

Parkinson and Speech Problems

In parkinson disease dysarthria or speech problems are often considered to be the most severe symptom. When a patient loses the ability to communicate this can become devastating. Motor problems are one thing however, loss of speech ability brings about a sense of dementia. These patients can hear fine and their mental faculties are in tact at least for some time but they can’t get their thoughts out. This brings about a sense of isolation and frustration. Not only to the patient but everyone around. Clinicals estimate that somewhere between 65 and 90 percent of parkinson disease suffers will have some form of speech deficit. These deficits often take the form of monotone speaking to complete unintelligible nonsense. Speech modes vary from being too fast, too slow, repeating words over and over again, too soft and/or too weak in volume. Parkinson Therapies

These speech abnormalities in parkinson disease stem from weakened speech muscles that are also becoming uncoordinated. The neurons involved with timing and sequencing are not being activated properly and some inputs are missing. It has been suggested that speech therapy and certain medications may be useful for some patients especially those that don’t have a sever problem. Another therapy that may be useful is performing voice exercises that will help boost vocal cord control. Keep it in mind that you need to be patient with someone who has parkinson disease. They little control over their motor movements and speech through no fault of their own and of course the disease is progressive. Hopefully, a cure will come forth in the near future.

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