Aphasia

Overview 

Aphasia is a communication disorder, in which damage occurs in the language area of the brain, such as Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area. The ability to express and understand language, verbally and visually, is impaired. Aphasia can happen to people of all age groups, mostly middle to old-aged people. It affects about 2 million people in the United States. 

 

Causes 

Aphasia usually happens after strokes or brain tumours in Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas. Other causes include head injury, infection and dementia. Temporary episodic aphasia is due to seizures, migraines and transient ischemic attack.

 

Types of aphasia 

  • Broca’s aphasia (expressive/nonfluent): the ability to express full sentences is impaired and vocabulary is limited. Individuals may still understand speech and read well, but have difficulty in writing. Since individuals can still hear their speech and detect their mistakes, they often get frustrated. 

  • Wernicke’s aphasia (comprehensive/fluent): the ability to perceive the meaning of speech and writing is impaired. Individuals can fluently speak but they tend to add words that are irrelevant or illogical because they can not understand their own speech. 

  • Global aphasia: it is the combination of Broca’s and Wernicke’s aphasia. Individuals have limited ability to make a speech or understand language. They fail to repeat words. 

  • Primary Progressive Aphasia: it is a neurodegenerative syndrome, in which language abilities are gradually impaired. It is accompanied by Alzheimer’s Disease. 

 

Diagnosis 

If symptoms like difficulty in speaking, understanding speech, recalling words, writing and reading occur, it is necessary to seek medical help. Individuals will undergo neuroimaging examinations such as MRI and CT scans. Physicians will test their ability to repeat words, name objects, answer questions etc. They will use comprehensive examinations to locate areas of brain damage and diagnose specific types of aphasia. 

 

Treatment 

If the aphasia is caused by a brain tumour, then surgery is needed. Following a stroke or head injury, if patients had great trouble making and understanding speech, it is necessary to participate in therapies with speech-language pathologists. Joining a Stroke Club or other support groups is also recommended. Sometimes, since our brain tissue may have the ability to recover, aphasia can be reduced, without treatment. 

 

How should I communicate if I have aphasia?

  • Take your time and be patient

  • Inform others that you have aphasia and suggest a way of communicating that works best for you

  • Use writing pads, photos, or hand gestures to supplement your speech 

 

Communicate with people who have aphasia 

  • Be patient and understand their circumstances 

  • Keep your words simple and short

  • Avoid correcting their mistakes 

  • Use creative tools like drawing or hand gestures 

  • Pay attention to their body language 

  • Repeat back what you think they are saying to confirm 

  • Remove distraction like TV or radios or music 

  • Do not speak louder. People with aphasia can hear things fine. 

 

Resources

  • National Aphasia Association: they have plenty of resources on aphasia therapies and software that can help people with aphasia. 

  • American Stroke Association (Stroke Support Group Finder): they listed Stroke Clubs that people with aphasia and their families can attend. 

 

Reference 

Aphasia. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/aphasia

Aphasia. (2020, October 20). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/aphasia/symptoms-causes/syc-20369518

Aphasia. (2020, December 14). Retrieved from https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/aphasia

Aphasia (Speech Problems): Types, Causes, Symptoms, Treatments. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/brain/aphasia-causes-symptoms-types-treatments

Aphasia Definitions. (2018, June 20). Retrieved from https://www.aphasia.org/aphasia-definitions/

Resources by Cassie Wang