What Is Aphasia?
Aphasia is a communication disorder that affects the brainâs
ability to use and understand language. Aphasia can interfere with your use of
verbal and/or written communication. Aphasia can also cause problems with your
ability to read, write, speak, and/or listen.
About one million Americans have some form of aphasia (National Aphasia Association).
Types of Aphasia
There are three major types of aphasia: fluent, nonfluent, and
Patients with fluent aphasia, also called Wernickeâs aphasia, typically:
damage to the middle left side of the brainare
unable to understand and use language correctlytend
to speak in long, complex sentencestend
to use incorrect or nonsense wordsare
unable to realize that others donât understand them
Patients with nonfluent aphasia, also called Brocaâs aphasia, typically:
have damage to the left frontal area of the brainspeak in short, incomplete sentencesare able to speak basic messages, though missing some wordshave a limited ability to understand what others sayexperience frustration because they realize they canât be
understood have weakness or paralysis on the right side of the body
Patients with global aphasia typically:
have major damage to the front and back of the left side of the
brainhave severe problems using wordshave severe problems understanding wordshave limited ability to use a few words together
What Causes Aphasia?
Aphasia is caused by damage to one or more areas of the
brain that control language. When damage occurs, the blood supply to these
areas can be interrupted. Without oxygen and nutrients from the blood supply,
the cells in these parts of the brain die.
Aphasia can be caused by a brain tumor, an infection, dementia, a neurological
disorder, or a degenerative disease. It can also occur suddenly from a head
injury or a stroke. Strokes are the most common cause of aphasia (National Aphasia
Seizures or migraines can cause temporary aphasia. Temporary
aphasia can also be caused by a transient
ischemic attack (TIA), which temporarily interrupts blood flow to the
brain. It can also be triggered by a mini-stroke.
Who Is at Risk for Aphasia?
Aphasia affects people of all ages, including children. Since strokes
are the most common cause of aphasia, the majority of people with this
condition are middle-aged or older. The condition occurs in 25 to 40 percent of
stroke survivors (National Aphasia
What Are the Symptoms of Aphasia?
Symptoms of aphasia vary from mild to severe. The effects of
aphasia depend on the areas of the brain that are damaged and the severity of
Aphasia affects both spoken and written communication. It can
hinder speaking, comprehension, reading, and writing. It can affect both
expressive and receptive communication.
Expressive symptoms are problems using words and sentences.
These symptoms can include:
in short, incomplete sentences or phrasesspeaking
in sentences that canât be understoodusing
wrong words or nonsense wordsusing
words in the wrong order
Receptive symptoms are problems understanding the words of
others. These symptoms can include:
understanding other peopleâs speech difficulty
following fast-paced speechmisunderstanding
If a physician suspects that a patient has aphasia, imaging
tests can help find the source of the problems. A computerized tomography (CT)
scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can help identify the location and
severity of brain damage.
A physician may screen for aphasia during treatment for a brain
injury or stroke. This may test a patientâs ability to:
In cases of aphasia, a speech-language pathologist can
identify specific communication disabilities. An examination will test the
patientâs ability to:
verbal and written languageexpress
socially with othersread
alternative forms of communication
Treatment for aphasia involves speech-language therapy. Typically,
therapy proceeds slowly and gradually. It should start as early as possible
after a brain injury. A treatment plan can include:
to improve and practice skillslearning
to use other forms of communication, such as gestures, drawings, and computersworking
in groups to practice communication skillstesting
skills in real-life situationsusing
computers for relearning word sounds and verbs encouraging
family involvement so patients can communicate at home
Patients with temporary aphasia caused by a TIA or migraine
may not need treatment to recover completely. Most patients with aphasia
recover some language abilities up to a month after a brain injury. However, a
return to full communication ability is not typical.
Several factors can determine how much improvement is
possible. The cause, location, and severity of brain damage affect the chance
for recovery. The patientâs age and health also can be factors. Other
considerations such as a patientâs motivation can impact the prognosis.
Aphasia is caused by many conditions that canât be prevented,
such as brain tumors or degenerative diseases. But the most common cause of
aphasia is a stroke. By reducing your risk of stroke, you can lower your risk
of developing aphasia.
The National Stroke Association recommends the following
precautions to reduce the risk of stroke (National Stroke Association):
your blood pressuremanage
atrial fibrillation (AF), which can cause blood to form clotsstop
a diet that is low in sodium and fatcontrol
immediate help if you have any symptoms of a stroke