Don’t Neglect Checking With Your Doctor About Sudden Slurred Speech

Don’t Neglect Checking With Your Doctor About Sudden Slurred Speech

Sudden slurred speech and difficulty speaking often occur during a stroke. Other stroke symptoms include sudden dizziness and numbness, weakness, or paralysis on one side of your face or in one arm or leg. 

If you have any symptoms of a stroke, call 911 immediately. Getting the proper medications within three hours significantly improves your chances of a full recovery.

Sudden speech problems can also signal a serious neurological disorder that needs prompt care. The sooner our neurology specialist, Richard B. Kim, MD, identifies the cause of your slurred speech, the faster you can get personalized care that improves your symptoms and slows down disease progression.

Here, we offer information about neurologic conditions that cause slurred speech.

Neuromuscular disorders

Neuromuscular disorders include many conditions that arise from damage in the nerves that control muscles. When the nerves stop working, their associated muscles weaken, shrink, and stop working.

If the affected nerve interferes with muscle movement in your mouth, tongue, throat, or face, you develop symptoms such as slurred speech and difficulty swallowing.

Neuromuscular diseases that interfere with speaking include:

Though cerebral palsy is caused by damage that occurs in the developing brain before birth, it doesn’t get worse over time. As a result, many adults live with the disease, often experiencing speech problems and difficulty swallowing.


Slow speech and struggling to speak affect half of all people during a migraine attack. Additionally, one-third of migraine patients experience aura, which also affects speech.

Aura occurs in the hour before your headache pain begins. During aura, many patients have difficulty speaking, uncontrollable movements, tingling in their arms or legs, and vision changes, such as wavy vision or seeing flashes of light or colored spots.

Brain tumors

Brain tumors can be malignant (cancerous) or benign (noncancerous). Some tumors begin in your brain; others start as cancer elsewhere in your body and spread to your brain.

No matter the type, the symptoms you develop depend on the location and size of the tumor. If the tumor affects the area that controls language, you may have a hard time speaking or expressing your thoughts. You may also have a hard time understanding what other people are saying.

In addition to difficulty speaking and thinking, brain tumor symptoms include:

Don’t wait to schedule an evaluation if you have any of these symptoms, whether they occur suddenly or gradually.

Bell’s palsy

Bell’s palsy occurs when nerves that control facial muscles become damaged, often due to inflammation. The nerve may become inflamed as a result of Lyme disease, sarcoidosis, or a herpes, HIV, or middle ear infection.

The symptoms usually start suddenly, affecting one side of your face. In addition to changes in your speech (as you lose control of muscles that control your mouth), you may also experience difficulty eating, drinking, smiling, making facial expressions, or closing one eye.

Bacterial meningitis

Meningitis refers to inflammation and swelling in the tissues surrounding your brain and spinal cord. Bacterial meningitis is less common than viral meningitis, but when it occurs, it’s a devastating disease that often causes brain damage.

Like a brain tumor, the neurological problems you develop after bacterial meningitis depend on the brain area that’s damaged. Long-term speech problems are a common complication. 

If you have questions about slurred speech or want to schedule an appointment, call one of our offices in Newport Beach or Orange, California, or request an appointment online today.

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