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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:
According to the National Aphasia Association, about 1 million Americans have some form 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:
Symptoms that affect expressive communication can include:
Symptoms that affect receptive communication can include:
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 likely you’ll:
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:
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:
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:
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.
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:
A TIA is different from a stroke because its effects are temporary.
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:
If you have aphasia, a speech-language pathologist can help identify your specific communication disabilities. During your examination, they’ll test your ability to:
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:
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:
Talk to your doctor to get more information about your specific condition and long-term outlook.
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:
Written by: Anna Zernone Giorgi
Medically reviewed on: May 11, 2016: University of Illinois-Chicago, College of Medicine
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