Aphasia is a language disorder caused by damage in a specific area of the
brain that controls language expression and comprehension, and leaves a person unable to
communicate effectively with others.
Approximately one million people in the United States have aphasia, with about 80,000
cases diagnosed each year. Both genders are affected equally, and most people with aphasia
are in middle to old age.
What are the different types of aphasia?
There are many types of aphasia, which are usually diagnosed by which area
of the language-dominant side of the brain is affected, and the extent of the damage.
People with Broca's aphasia, for example, have damage to the front
portion of the language-dominant side of the brain. They may eliminate the articles
and the from their language, and speak in short, but meaningful,
sentences. They usually can understand some speech of others.
Those with Wernike's aphasia have damage to the back portion of the
language-dominant side of the brain. They may speak in long confusing sentences, add
unnecessary words, or create new words. They usually have difficulty understanding the
speech of others.
Global aphasia is the result of damage to a large portion of the
language-dominant side of the brain. People with global aphasia have difficulties with
speaking or comprehending language.
Language is the expression
of human communication. It allows a person to express, experience,
explain, and share:
It is a specific method,
style, or form of communicating for individuals or groups of
individuals. Most language is vocal, however, it may also be
- symbols, as in letters
When language is impaired,
problems can occur in all areas of a person's life, including:
- social development
- academic performance
- personal relationships
- employment opportunities
Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
What causes aphasia?
Aphasia is caused by damage to the language-dominant side of the brain,
usually the left side, and may be brought on by:
- head injury
- brain tumor
It is currently unknown if aphasia causes the
complete loss of language structure, or if it causes difficulties in how
language is accessed and used.
How is aphasia diagnosed?
Confirmation of aphasia, extent of the disorder, and prediction for
successful treatment may be assessed and confirmed by language tests
conducted by a speech-language pathologist. Making a diagnosis may also
include the use of imaging procedures, such as:
- computed tomography (CT)
- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- positron emission tomography (PET)
Treatment for aphasia:
Specific treatment will be determined by the physician(s) based on the:
- patient's age, overall health, and medical
- extent of the disorder
- expectations for the course of the
- patient's tolerance for specific
medications, procedures, or therapies
- patient's opinion or preference
Other determining factors include the
- education level
The goal of treatment is to improve the
patient's ability to communicate through methods that may include:
- speech-language therapy
- non-verbal communication therapies, such
as computers or pictures
- group therapy for patients and their