Aphasia is a language disorder caused by damage in a specific area of the brain that controls language expression and comprehension. Aphasia leaves a person unable to communicate effectively with others.
Many people have aphasia as a result of stroke. Both men and women are affected equally, and most people with aphasia are in middle to old age.
There are many types of aphasia. These are usually diagnosed based on which area of the language-dominant side of the brain is affected and the extent of the damage. For example:
Global aphasia is the result of damage to a large portion of the language-dominant side of the brain.
Aphasia is caused by damage to the language-dominant side of the brain, usually the left side, and may be brought on by:
It is currently unknown if aphasia causes the complete loss of language structure, or if it causes difficulties in how language is accessed and used.
The symptoms of aphasia depend on which type a person has.
People with Broca aphasia, sometimes called an expressive aphasia, for example, may eliminate the words "and" and "the" from their language, and speak in short, but meaningful, sentences. They usually can understand some speech of others. Because the damage is in the front part of the brain, is also important for motor movements, people with Broca's aphasia often have right-sided weakness or paralysis of the arm and leg.
Those with Wernicke aphasia, sometimes called a receptive aphasia, may speak in long confusing sentences, add unnecessary words, or create new words. They usually have difficulty understanding the speech of others.
People with global aphasia have difficulties with speaking or comprehending language.
Confirmation of aphasia, extent of the disorder, and prediction for successful treatment may be assessed and confirmed by a set of comprehensive language tests conducted by a speech-language pathologist. These tests include studying speech, naming, repetition, comprehension, reading, and writing. Making a diagnosis may also include the use of imaging procedures to look at the brain, such as:
Specific treatment for aphasia will be discussed with you by your healthcare provider based on:
The goal of treatment is to improve your ability to communicate through methods that may include:
Some people with aphasia recover completely without treatment. But for most people, some amount of aphasia typically remains. Treatments such as speech therapy can often help recover some speech and language functions over time, but many people continue to have problems communicating. This can sometimes be difficult and frustrating both for the person with aphasia and for family members. It's important for family members to learn the best ways to communicate with their loved one. Speech therapists can often help with this. Suggestions might include the following:
For some people, computers can be helpful for both communicating and improving language abilities.
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