Aphasia
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Aphasia

Pronounced: Ah-fay-gee-ah

En Español (Spanish Version)

Definition

Aphasia is a communication disorder that results from damage to parts of the brain that are responsible for language. Aphasia can impair the expression and understanding of language, as well as reading and writing. The sooner aphasia is diagnosed, the more effective the treatment. If you suspect you have this condition, contact your doctor.

Causes

Stroke

si1213_97870_1_Ischemic Stroke.jpg

© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

Some causes of aphasia include:
  • Stroke (the most common cause)
  • Severe blow to the head
  • Gunshot wound
  • Other traumatic head injury
  • Brain tumor
  • Brain infection
  • Other brain conditions

Risk Factors

The following factor increases your chances of developing aphasia. If you have this risk factor, tell your doctor:

  • Middle-to-older age
  • Family history
  • Prior history of transient ischemic attacks (TIA)

Symptoms

Aphasia itself is a symptom of an underlying problem. If you experience any of these symptoms do not assume it is caused by aphasia. These symptoms may be caused by other health conditions. If you experience any one of them, see your physician.

  • Problems talking
    • 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; words "on the tip of the tongue")
  • 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, and perform a physical exam. The neurologist who treats your brain condition will most likely recognize your aphasia and perform simple tests that require you to follow commands, answer questions, name objects, and have a conversation. You may then be referred to a speech-language pathologist, who will perform further tests to assess your speech and language skills.

Tests may include the following:

  • 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
  • MRI scan—an x-ray that uses magnetic waves to make images of structures inside the head
  • CT scan—an x-ray that uses a computer to make images of structures inside the head
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG)—a test that records brain activity by measuring electrical currents through the brain. This test may be done in some situations.

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:

Speech-Language Therapy

The speech-language pathologist will help you use your remaining communication abilities, restore lost abilities, learn to compensate for language problems, and learn other methods of communicating. This therapy will likely take place in both individual and group settings.

Family Counseling

The speech-language therapist will counsel your family in learning how to best communicate with you.

Psychological evaluation may also be helpful.

Prevention

The most common cause of aphasia is stroke. To help reduce your chances of a stroke:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Limit dietary salt and fat
  • Stop smoking
  • If you drink, do so in moderation.
  • Maintain an healthy weight
  • Monitor and control your blood pressure
  • Consider taking low-dose aspirin, if your physician recommends you do so.
  • Keep existing conditions, such as diabetes and high cholesterol , under control.
  • Seek immediate medical help if you experience symptoms of a stroke

RESOURCES:

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
http://www.asha.org

Brain Injury Association of America
http://www.biausa.org

National Aphasia Association
http://www.aphasia.org

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
http://www.nidcd.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Aphasia Institute
http://www.aphasia.ca

York-Durham Aphasia Centre
http://www.ydac.on.ca

References:

Aphasia. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: http://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/Aphasia_info.htm. Accessed September 14, 2006.

Aphasia. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders website. Available at: http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/voice/aphasia.asp. Accessed September 14, 2006.



Last reviewed February 2008 by Elie Rebeiz, MD, FACS

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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