Effects of Stroke on Speech and Swallows

Effects of StrokeWhat are the effects of stroke on speech and the ability to swallow? We often don’t think about the act of speaking or swallowing. After all, we have been doing so since before we can remember. A stroke changes all of this. A stroke is an injury to the brain that occurs when blood flow is blocked or reduced. Severity of symptoms following a stroke vary from mild and transitory to severe and permanent. After a stroke, you may not be able to speak clearly or at all. You may be unable to follow directions or conversation or have difficulty coming up with words or putting words into a sentence. A stroke may also cause you to have difficulty swallowing. During the rehabilitation process you will likely work with a speech–language pathologist and hear the following medical terms.

Effects of Stroke – Aphasia

Aphasia is a language disorder that occurs after a stroke. It may make it difficult to talk, understand, read, and write.  When talking, a person who has had a stroke may not remember the word they wish to say. They may say a different word such as “cup” when they mean “plate,” mix up sounds in words such as “pick diller” for “dill pickle,” or use made up words. They may even have trouble saying longer sentences. A person who has had a stroke may not understand what is said when they are listening to family or friends. This is especially true if the person is speaking quickly or in a noisy room. They may no longer understand jokes. It is not uncommon to also have trouble reading books or forms, spelling words, writing notes or cards, and doing math calculations.

Dysarthria/Apraxia

Dysarthria and apraxia make it difficult for stoke survivors to say sounds, resulting in speech that is hard to understand. Dysarthria is a weakness in the muscles of the mouth, lips, tongue, and in muscles that control breathing. It makes it difficult to say sounds clearly or loudly enough. Apraxia also makes it difficult to say sounds correctly, but for a different reason. Apraxia is not muscle weakness; it is difficulty getting the muscles of your mouth, tongue, and lips to move the correct way to say sounds.

Dysphagia

Dysphagia is difficulty chewing and swallowing. It involves the muscles of the mouth, throat, and esophagus (tube to stomach). People with dysphagia may drool, lose food from their mouth when chewing, have food left in their mouth after swallowing, complain of food getting stuck in their throat or of pain when eating, and cough or choke during meals. Often people will lose weight, become dehydrated, or be unable to swallow pills.

A speech–language pathologist treats all of these impairments. The specific technique used will depend on the impairment and the severity of the impairment. Family members may also participate in therapy sessions to better understand the effects of a stroke and how to help a person recover function. If a person has a severe stroke, a full recovery might not be possible. Family members will be taught to help that person compensate while remaining as independent as possible. Recovery time from a stroke varies, but beginning treatment early will help a person who has had a stroke regain lost skills more quickly.

Check out Speech Therapy Treatment for Adults for more details on how speech therapy can help. For more resources or to learn more about strokes, visit stroke.org.