What is aphasia?
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 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 Disorders

Language is the expression of human communication. It allows a person to express, experience, explain, and share:

  • knowledge
  • thoughts
  • observations
  • questions
  • needs
  • values
  • beliefs
  • behaviors

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 expressed by:

  • symbols, as in letters and numbers
  • gestures
  • sounds

When language is impaired, problems can occur in all areas of a person's life, including:

  • social development
  • academic performance
  • personal relationships
  • employment opportunities
  • self-sufficiency

Source: National
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:

  • stroke
  • 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 history
  • extent of the disorder
  • expectations for the course of the disorder
  • patient's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • patient's opinion or preference

Other determining factors include the patient's:

  • motivation
  • handedness
  • 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 families