Aphasia: what you need to know

What is aphasia?

Aphasia is a communication disorder that makes it difficult to use words. It can affect your speech, writing, and ability to understand language. Aphasia results from damage or injury to the language parts of the brain. It is more common in older adults, especially those who have had a stroke.

Aphasia impairs a person’s ability to communicate, but does not impair intelligence. People with aphasia may have trouble speaking and finding the “correct” words to complete their thoughts. They may also have problems understanding conversation, reading and understanding written words, writing words, and using numbers. People with aphasia may also repeat words or phrases.

Symptoms of aphasia

The main symptoms of aphasia include:

  • trouble speaking
  • Struggling to find the right term or word
  • Using strange or wrong words in conversation
  • Difficulty understanding what others are saying or following conversations
  • Writing sentences that don’t make sense or have difficulty expressing yourself in writing
  • Speak in short sentences or phrases
  • Using unrecognizable words

The aphasia may be mild or severe. With mild aphasia, a person may be able to speak, yet have difficulty finding the correct word or understanding complex conversations. Serious aphasia makes the person less able to communicate. The person may say little and may not participate in or understand any conversation.

Some people with aphasia have trouble understanding what other people are saying. Especially problems occur when a person is tired or in a crowded or noisy environment. Aphasia does not affect thinking skills. But a person may have problems understanding written material and have difficulty with handwriting. Some people have difficulty using numbers or even doing simple calculations.

Types of aphasia

There are different types of aphasia. Each can cause language problems ranging from mild to serious. But verbal expressions can often be categorized as either fluent or non-fluent aphasia.

Fluency Aphasia vs. Aphasia

Fluency aphasia. You may be able to produce speech that contains connected sentences. But the sentences, while related, may lack proper meaning.

Non-fluent aphasia. With this type, your speech may stop. It may take a lot of effort to tie a sentence together, and it may not be grammatically correct. But you may still be able to keep the meaning of the words long enough to make the point clear.

Common types of fluent aphasia include:

anomic aphasia; With aphasia, you find it difficult to find words. This is called anemia. Because of the difficulties, you may have trouble finding the right words to speak and write.

Conductive aphasia. This is also called associative aphasia. It is a form in which you may have trouble finding words or repeating phrases.

Sensory aphasia across the cortex. With this type, you are fairly good at repeating words and phrases. But you are more likely to repeat questions someone might ask you than to answer them. This phenomenon is called echo.

Wernicke’s aphasia. Also known as receptive aphasia. You can hear a sound or read a print but you may not understand the meaning of the message. A person with receptive aphasia often takes language literally. They may be speechless because they do not understand their own language.

Common types of non-fluent aphasia are:

Broca’s aphasia. This is also called expressive aphasia. If you have this style, you know what you want to say, but you will have a hard time communicating it to others. It doesn’t matter whether you’re trying to say or write what you’re trying to communicate.

International aphasia. This is the most severe type of aphasia. It’s often seen right after someone has had a stroke. With global aphasia, you find it difficult to speak and understand words. You also cannot read or write. With a stroke, aphasia may improve with appropriate treatment.

Transcortical motor aphasia. You may have strong repetition skills, but you may find it difficult to answer questions without having to think about them too much.

exceptional aphasia

These types usually do not fit well with either fluent or non-fluent aphasia. It can include:

Cross aphasia. You may develop this type of aphasia after an injury to your brain that controls which side of your body. But it happens on the other side. For example, if you are right-handed, the left hemisphere is usually dominant. But in this case, a stroke in the right hemisphere of the brain causes language problems in right-handed people.

Subcortical aphasia. This type of aphasia may occur if you have injured the subcortical region of your brain.

Primary progressive aphasia. Primary progressive aphasia is actually a type of dementia. It is a rare disorder in which people slowly lose their ability to speak, read, write and understand what they hear in conversation over a period of time. There is no treatment to reverse primary progressive aphasia. People with primary progressive aphasia can communicate in ways other than speech. For example, they may use gestures. Many benefit from a combination of speech therapy and medication.

Causes of aphasia

Aphasia is usually caused by a stroke or brain injury with damage to one or more parts of the brain that deal with language. According to the National Aphasia Association, about 25% to 40% of people who survive a stroke develop aphasia.

Besides a stroke, other causes include:

In some cases, aphasia is a symptom of epilepsy or another neurological disorder. As of today, experts aren’t sure if aphasia causes you to lose language structure completely, or if it only affects your ability to access and use language.

Diagnosis of aphasia

A doctor will usually first diagnose aphasia when treating you for a stroke, brain injury or tumor. Using a series of neurological tests, your doctor may ask you questions. The doctor may also issue specific orders and ask you to name items or objects. The results of these tests help your doctor determine if you have aphasia. It also helps determine the severity of the aphasia.

Imaging tests used to diagnose aphasia include:

If your doctor suspects aphasia, he or she may also refer you to a speech-language pathologist for a detailed examination. These medical professionals are trained to identify and improve language and communication skills.

During the exam, they may test to monitor language skills such as:

  • Rules
  • The ability to form sounds and letters
  • The ability to understand words and sentences
  • object knowledge
  • Description of photos
  • Use single words to name objects and pictures
  • Match the spoken words with the pictures
  • Answer yes or no questions
  • Follow the instructions

Aphasia treatment

Treatment for a person with aphasia depends on things such as:

  • age
  • Cause of brain injury
  • type of aphasia
  • The location and size of the brain lesion

For example, a person with aphasia may have a brain tumor that affects the language center in the brain. Surgery to treat a brain tumor may also improve aphasia.

A person with aphasia who has had a stroke may benefit from sessions with a speech-language pathologist. The therapist will meet regularly with the person to help them speak and communicate better. The therapist will also teach the person ways of communicating that do not involve speech. This will help the person make up for language difficulties.

Here are some tips from the National Stroke Association for someone with aphasia:

  • Use props to help get the message across.
  • Draw words or pictures on the paper when trying to communicate.
  • Speak slowly, and be calm when speaking.
  • Carry a card to let strangers know that you have aphasia and what the aphasia means.

Speech and language therapy. If you have aphasia and have had a stroke, you may benefit from sessions with a speech-language pathologist. It is best to start as soon as possible. Your therapist will meet with you regularly to help you speak and communicate better. The therapist will also teach you ways to communicate that do not involve speech. This will help you offset language problems.

This type of therapy can also be done in group settings to initiate and practice conversations. Interaction may also help you relearn and correct spoken errors. Therapy may also include computers and technical devices to relearn words and phrases.

Nonverbal communication therapies. If the aphasia limits how well you communicate correctly using words and phrases, you may benefit from nonverbal communication therapy.

Your treatment plan may include:

  • Image-based communication system.
  • Use the communication book to draw
  • Drawing Program
  • Working with gestures
  • Work directly on job improvement in areas that affect verbal communication

Medication. Some medications may improve blood flow to the brain, helping it to recover, or replace some chemicals that may have been reduced after aphasia. Drugs such as memantine (Namenda) and piracetam have shown some success in small studies. But more research needs to be done before it is recommended for treatment.

Group therapy. This can be beneficial for both the person with aphasia and loved ones. Licensed professionals can help you build tools to communicate well and adjust expectations through the recovery process.

other treatments. Experts study brain simulation therapies such as transcranial magnetic stimulation and transcranial direct current stimulation. These are non-surgical options that work to stimulate damaged brain cells. But more research is needed.

What is the outlook for people with aphasia?

The outlook for people with aphasia may depend on several things, such as:

  • Cause of brain injury
  • extent of injury
  • injury area
  • age
  • the health

If a stroke causes aphasia, you will likely regain language skills within hours or days. For others, language problems may be a lifelong problem. Aphasia can range from mild and mild to really bad.

If a neurodegenerative condition such as dementia is the cause of the aphasia, language skills may be lost over time.

Complications of aphasia

Possible complications depend on the cause of the aphasia. This may include:

  • depression
  • loss of mobility
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • high risk of infection
  • pressure ulcer
  • untreated pain

Aphasia vs. dysarthria

Aphasia is used to describe the complete loss of language and speech from a brain injury. Dysarthria refers to the partial loss of language. But the term “aphasia” is often used to refer to both conditions.

Aphasia vs. dysarthria

Unlike aphasia that occurs due to brain injury, dysarthria is a speech disorder. This may happen if the muscles used for speech become weak, injured, or paralyzed. Causes can include nervous system damage or neuromuscular conditions such as ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis.

Tips for communicating with aphasia sufferers

If you have aphasia, there are things you can do to improve your communication with others. you may:

  • Make gestures with your hands.
  • Use facial expressions.
  • Try using devices such as a phone, computer, or communication apps to make a video call.
  • Use communication tools such as pictures.
  • Mime or acting out.
  • Combine reading, writing, and speaking to drive the idea home.
  • Indicate the keywords.

Tips for communicating with someone with aphasia

If someone you know has aphasia, these tips can help you communicate better:

  • Get their attention before you say something.
  • Keep eye contact.
  • Pay attention to their body language.
  • Speak in a quiet place.
  • Use simple words, but don’t use childish language.
  • Use shorter sentences and repeat important words.
  • speak slowly.
  • Give them time to say something.
  • If words don’t work, try drawing, gestures, writing, or facial expressions.
  • Ask them to draw, write or point if they are having trouble.
  • Ask yes or no questions.
  • Let them make mistakes and try.
  • Don’t speak louder. People with aphasia hear normally.
  • Don’t stop their thoughts about them.

When do you see a doctor?

Aphasia can often be a sign of a serious medical problem such as a stroke. Tell your doctor right away if you notice that you suddenly have problems such as:

  • difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty understanding speech
  • Unable or difficult to remember words
  • Problems reading or writing

If it is a medical emergency, call 911 or head to the nearest hospital.

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