Aphasia is a language disorder that affects or limits a person’s ability to communicate. Most commonly caused by a stroke, aphasia can also be the result of a traumatic head injury, a brain tumor, an infection, a neurodegenerative disorder (such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease) or another condition that affects parts of the brain.
There are two main types of aphasia: expressive and receptive. People with expressive aphasia have trouble communicating their thoughts through speech and writing, while those with receptive aphasia have difficulty understanding spoken or written language.
Symptoms of aphasia
Aphasia has its own symptoms and can also be a symptom of an underlying health condition. Symptoms of aphasia can include:
- Difficulty speaking — Such as speaking in short, fragmented sentences; putting words together in the wrong order; using incorrect grammar; switching sounds or words; speaking in nonsense; or being unable to remember the names of common, everyday objects
- Problems understanding oral language — People with aphasia might need extra time to process language, have trouble following fast speech, or might take the literal meaning of a figure of speech (like “don’t let the cat out of the bag”)
- Difficulty reading or writing — Someone with aphasia might also struggle with reading or writing
If a doctor suspects that someone might have aphasia, they will ask the patient about their symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam. A patient with a brain condition may already be seeing a specialist, who will likely be able to recognize the signs of aphasia.
There are multiple tests used to diagnose aphasia, such as an MRI scan, CT scan, blood tests, lumbar puncture, electroencephalogram (EEG) and specific tests to evaluate a patient’s reading, writing, comprehension and other neurological functions.
Treatment for aphasia
Treatment for aphasia often involves treating the underlying cause of aphasia, as well as the symptoms of aphasia itself.
One common treatment option for aphasia is speech-language therapy. For patients who have developed aphasia as the result of a stroke, speech-language therapy has been associated with short-term improvement in a person’s functional communication skills.
During speech-language therapy, a specialist helps people with aphasia use and retain their remaining communication abilities, work to restore their lost abilities, learn to compensate for language difficulties, and learn other effective ways to communicate.
For people who have been diagnosed with aphasia, a physician might also recommend family counseling, which can help families learn how to best communicate and deal with someone who has speech and/or language problems.
The most common cause of aphasia is stroke. Because of this, the best way to prevent aphasia is to reduce one’s risk factors of stroke.
Ways to prevent stroke include:
- Getting regular exercise
- Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Limiting the salt and fat intake in your diet
- Quitting smoking
- Drinking only in moderation
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Controlling one’s blood pressure
- Treating and managing chronic health conditions, such as diabetes.
If you think someone in your family might be displaying the signs of aphasia, talk to your doctor about these symptoms. If you think someone is having a stroke, call 911 and seek medical attention immediately.
A leader in the field of neurology and neurosciences and the treatment of stroke, Swedish Medical Center combines state-of-the-art technology with an outstanding team of staff and physicians who have extensive experience and expertise in treating nearly all forms of neurological disease. Our proven excellence in neurosciences has made Swedish the Rocky Mountain region's referral center for neurotrauma — and the first hospital in Colorado to be four-times certified as a Primary Stroke Center by The Joint Commission.