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).
There are three major types of aphasia: fluent, nonfluent, and global.
Patients with fluent aphasia, also called Wernickeâs aphasia, typically:
Patients with nonfluent aphasia, also called Brocaâs aphasia, typically:
Patients with global aphasia typically:
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 Association).
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.
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 Association).
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 that damage.
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:
Receptive symptoms are problems understanding the words of others. These symptoms can include:
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:
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:
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):