What is aphasia?
Aphasia is a communication disorder that occurs due to brain damage in one
or more areas that control language. It can interfere with your verbal communication,
written communication, or both. It can cause problems with your ability to:
- understand speech
According to the National
Aphasia Association, about 1 million Americans have some form of aphasia.
are the symptoms of aphasia?
Symptoms of aphasia vary from mild to severe. They depend on where the
damage occurs in your brain and the severity of that damage.
Aphasia can affect your:
- expressive communication, which involves using
words and sentences
- receptive communication, which involves
understanding the words of others
Symptoms that affect expressive communication can include:
- speaking in
short, incomplete sentences or phrases
- speaking in
sentences that other can’t understand
- using the wrong
words or nonsense words
- using words in
the wrong order
Symptoms that affect receptive communication can include:
understanding other people’s speech
following fast-paced speech
Types of aphasia
The four major types of aphasia are:
Fluent aphasia is also called Wernicke’s
aphasia. It typically involves damage to the middle left side
of your brain. If you have this type of aphasia, you can speak but you have
trouble understanding when others speak. If you have fluent aphasia, it’s
- be unable to
understand and use language correctly
- tend to speak in
long, complex sentences that are meaningless and include incorrect or
- not realize that
others can’t understand you
Nonfluent aphasia is also called Broca’s
aphasia. It typically involves damage to the left frontal area
of your brain. If you have nonfluent aphasia, you’ll likely:
- speak in short,
- be able to convey
basic messages, but you may be missing some words
- have a limited
ability to understand what others say
frustration because you realize that others can’t understand you
- have weakness or
paralysis on the right side of your body
Conduction aphasia typically involves trouble repeating certain words or phrases.
If you have this type of aphasia, you’ll likely understand when others are
talking. It’s also likely that others will understand your speech but you may
have trouble repeating words and make some mistakes when speaking.
Global aphasia typically involves major damage to the front and back of the
left side of your brain. If you have this type of aphasia, you’ll likely:
- have severe
problems using words
- have severe
problems understanding words
- have limited
ability to use a few words together
Aphasia occurs due to damage to one or more areas of your brain that control
language. When damage occurs, it can interrupt the blood supply to these areas.
Without oxygen and nutrients from your blood supply, the cells in these parts
of your brain die.
Aphasia can occur due to:
- a brain tumor
- an infection
- dementia or another neurological disorder
- a degenerative disease
- a head injury
- a stroke
Strokes are the most common cause of aphasia. According to the National Aphasia Association, aphasia
occurs in 25 to 40 percent of people who’ve had a stroke.
Causes of temporary aphasia
Seizures or migraines can cause temporary aphasia. Temporary aphasia can
also occur due to a transient ischemic attack
(TIA), which temporarily interrupts blood flow to your brain. A TIA is often
called a ministroke. The effects of a TIA include:
- numbness of certain body parts
- difficulty speaking
- difficulty understanding speech
A TIA is different from a stroke because its effects are temporary.
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 aphasia are
middle-aged or older.
If your doctor suspects you have aphasia, they may order imaging tests to
find the source of the problem. A CT or MRI scan can help them identify the
location and severity of your brain damage.
You doctor may also screen you for aphasia during treatment for a brain
injury or stroke. For example, they may test your ability to:
- follow commands
- name objects
- participate in a
- answer questions
- write words
If you have aphasia, a speech-language pathologist can help identify your specific
communication disabilities. During your examination, they’ll test your ability
- speak clearly
- express ideas
- interact with
verbal and written language
- use alternative forms
Your doctor will recommend speech-language therapy to treat aphasia. This therapy
typically proceeds slowly and gradually. You should start it as early as
possible after a brain injury. Your specific treatment plan may involve:
- performing exercises
to improve your communication skills
- working in
groups to practice your communication skills
- testing your
communication skills in real-life situations
- learning to use
other forms of communication, such as gestures, drawings, and computer-mediated
- using computers to
relearn word sounds and verbs
family involvement to help you communicate at home
is the outlook for people who have aphasia?
If you have temporary aphasia due to a TIA or a migraine, you may not need
treatment. If you have another type of aphasia, you’ll likely recover some
language abilities up to a month after you sustain brain damage. However, it’s
unlikely that your full communication abilities will return.
Several factors determine your outlook:
- the cause of the brain damage
- the location of the brain damage
- the severity of the brain damage
- your age
- your overall health
- your motivation to follow your treatment plan
Talk to your doctor to get more information about your specific condition and
Many of the conditions that cause aphasia aren’t preventable, such as brain
tumors or degenerative diseases. However, the most common cause of aphasia is
stroke. If you reduce your risk of stroke, you can lower your risk of aphasia.
Take the following steps to lower your risk of stroke:
- Stop smoking if
- Drink alcohol
only in moderation.
- Exercise daily.
- Eat a diet
that’s low in sodium and fat.
- Take steps to control
your blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Take steps to
control diabetes or circulation problems if you have them.
- Get treatment
for atrial fibrillation if you have it.
- Get immediate medical
care if you develop the symptoms of a stroke.