Aphasia
En Español (Spanish Version)

Definition
Aphasia is a communication disorder. People with aphasia may have difficulty with the expression and/or understanding of language, as well as reading and writing.

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

  • Stroke—most common cause
  • Traumatic head injury
  • Gunshot wound
  • Brain tumor
  • Brain infection
  • Neurodegenerative disorders
  • Other brain conditions
Stroke

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

  • Increasing age
  • Family history of aphasia
  • Prior history of transient ischemic attacks (TIA)—also called mini-strokes
Symptoms
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
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

If you have a brain condition, you are probably already 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
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
Since stroke is a common cause of aphasia, follow these guidelines to help prevent 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 less 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, like diabetes.
If you have signs of a stroke, call for emergency medical services right away.




RESOURCES:
National Aphasia Association

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

CANADIAN RESOURCES:
The Aphasia Institute

Brain Injury Association of Alberta

References:
Aphasia. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: http://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/Aphasia. Accessed May 21, 2013.

Aphasia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 2, 2012. Accessed May 21, 2013.

Aphasia. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders website. Available at: http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/voice/pages/aphasia.aspx. Updated October 2008. Accessed May 21, 2013.

Last Reviewed January 2015



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