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Aphasia

Pronounced: Ah-fay-gee-ah

 

Definition

Aphasia is a disorder that affects the ability to communicate. People with aphasia may have difficulty with the expression and/or understanding of language, as well as reading and writing. Aphasia can be classified into 2 broad categories.

  • Expressive aphasia—difficulty communicating thoughts through speech and writing
  • Receptive aphasia—problems understanding spoken or written language
 

Causes    TOP

Aphasia is caused by an injury to parts of the brain that are involved with language. The injury may be the result of:

Stroke

si1213_97870_1_Ischemic Stroke.jpg

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

 

Risk Factors    TOP

Aphasia is more common in older people. Other factors that may increase your chance of aphasia include:

  • Increased age
  • Family history of aphasia
  • Prior history of transient ischemic attacks (TIA)—sometimes referred to as mini-strokes
 

Symptoms    TOP

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

  • Difficulty speaking:
    • Speaking in short, fragmented phrases
    • Putting words in the wrong order
    • Using incorrect grammar
    • Switching sounds or words
    • Speaking in nonsense
    • Anomia—word-finding problems
  • Problems understanding oral language:
    • Needing extra time to process language
    • Difficulty following very fast speech
    • Taking the literal meaning of a figure of speech
  • Problems reading
  • Problems writing
 

Diagnosis    TOP

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

If you have a brain condition, you may already be seeing a doctor who specializes in the nervous system. This doctor will most likely be able to recognize your aphasia. Some simple tests may be done. For example, you may be asked to follow commands, answer questions, name objects, and have a conversation. You may then be referred to a speech-language pathologist who will perform additional tests to assess your speech and language skills.

Imaging tests are used to evaluate the brain and other structures. These may include:

Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Blood tests
  • Lumbar puncture —to test cerebrospinal fluid that protects the brain and spinal cord

Your brain activity may be measured. This can be done with electroencephalogram (EEG).

You may also be given the following specialized tests:

  • Evaluation of speech
  • Assessment of the strength and coordination of the speech muscles
  • Vocabulary and grammar tests
  • Comprehension tests
  • Reading and writing tests
  • Swallowing tests
  • Neuropsychological tests
 

Treatment    TOP

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment will focus on:

  • Treating the underlying cause of aphasia
  • Aphasia symptoms

Options for treating aphasia itself include:

Speech-Language Therapy

A speech-language specialist will help you:

  • Use your remaining communication abilities
  • Restore lost abilities
  • Learn to compensate for language problems
  • Learn other methods of communicating.

This therapy may take place in both individual and group settings.

Family Counseling

A speech-language therapist will help you and your family learn how to best communicate with each other.

Psychological evaluation may also be helpful.

 

Prevention    TOP

Since stroke is a common cause of aphasia. To help reduce the chance of a stroke:

  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Limit salt and fat in your diet.
  • If you smoke, talk to your doctor about how to successfully quit.
  • If you drink, do so in moderation. Moderation is 2 or less drinks per day for men and 1 or fewer drinks per day for women.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Control your blood pressure.
  • Ask your doctor if you should take low-dose aspirin.
  • Properly treat and control chronic conditions, such as diabetes.

If you have signs of a stroke, call for emergency medical services right away.

RESOURCES:

National Aphasia Association
http://www.aphasia.org

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
http://www.ninds.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Aphasia Institute
http://www.aphasia.ca

Brain Injury Awareness
http://www.biaa.ca

REFERENCES:

Aphasia. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed February 16, 2018.

Aphasia. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated March 6, 2017. Accessed February 18, 2018.

Stroke rehabilitation. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T580145/Stroke-rehabilitation . Updated January 19, 2018. Accessed February 16, 2018.



Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 2/12/2016

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