Aphasia is a problem that affects the ability to speak, write, and understand language.


This health problem is caused by an injury to the brain, such as:

  • Stroke —most common cause
  • Head injury
  • Brain tumor
  • Brain infection
  • Disorders that cause problems with the cells of the nervous system, such as Alzheimer disease

si1213_97870_1_Ischemic Stroke.jpg

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Risk Factors

Aphasia is more common in older adults. It is also more common in people who have had a transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a mini-stroke.


Aphasia is a symptom of an underlying problem. It may cause:

  • Problems speaking:
    • Speaking in short, broken phrases
    • Putting words in the wrong order
    • Using incorrect grammar
    • Switching sounds or words
    • Speaking in words that do not have meaning and do not make sense
    • Problems finding the names for everyday words
  • Problems understanding speech:
    • Needing extra time to process language
    • Problems following very fast speech
    • Taking the literal meaning of a figure of speech
  • Problems reading
  • Problems writing


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. Speech language, and communication tests may be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis. You may also need to see a doctor who treats the nervous system.

Other tests may be done to find the cause of the aphasia.


The cause of aphasia will need to be treated. The goals of treating aphasia are to improve or maintain communication.

Speech and language therapy will be needed to:

  • Restore lost skills
  • Learn how to use existing skills
  • Learn other ways to communicate


There are no guidelines to prevent aphasia. It is caused by underlying health problems.


National Aphasia Association

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke


Aphasia Institute

Brain Injury Awareness


Aphasia. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: Accessed April 7, 2020.

Aphasia. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) website. Available at: Updated March 6, 2017. Accessed April 7, 2020.

Stroke rehabilitation in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated February 24, 2020. Accessed April 7, 2020.

Last reviewed February 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD  Last Updated: 4/7/2020