What is Aphasia?

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

Aphasia is an acquired communication disorder that results from damage to the parts of the brain that contain language, but does not affect intelligence. Aphasia causes problems with any or all of the following: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Individuals with aphasia may also have other problems, such as dysarthria, apraxia, or swallowing deficiencies. (aphasia.org) (asha.org)

Aphasia is a term unfamiliar to many, yet an estimated 1 million Americans of all ages have it, most as the result of a stroke, and 100,000 people are diagnosed with it each year. Approximately one-third of individuals with a severe head trauma have aphasia. (heritage.com)

A person with aphasia may:

  • Speak in short or incomplete sentences
  • Speak in sentences that don't make sense
  • Speak unrecognizable words
  • Not comprehend other people's conversation
  • Interpret figurative language literally
  • Write sentences that don't make sense

The severity and scope of the problems depend on the extent of damage and the area of the brain affected. Some people may comprehend what others say relatively well but struggle to find words to speak. Other people may be able to understand what they read but yet can't speak so that others can understand them. (mayoclinic.com)

Types of aphasia

Your doctor may refer to aphasia as nonfluent, fluent or global:

  • Nonfluent aphasia. Damage to the language network near the left frontal area of the brain usually results in Broca aphasia, which is also called nonfluent aphasia. People with this disorder struggle to get words out, speak in very short sentences and leave out words. A person might say "Want food" or "Walk park today." Although the sentences aren't complete, a listener can usually understand the meaning. A person with Broca aphasia may comprehend what other people say to some degree. People with this type of aphasia are often aware of their own difficulty in communicating and may get frustrated with these limitations. Additionally, people with Broca aphasia may also have right-sided paralysis or weakness. (mayoclinic.com)
  • Fluent aphasia. Wernicke aphasia is the result of damage to the language network in the middle left side of the brain. It's often called fluent aphasia. People with this form of aphasia may speak fluently in long, complex sentences that don't make sense or include unrecognizable, incorrect or unnecessary words. They usually don't comprehend spoken language well and often don't realize that others can't understand what they're saying. (mayoclinic.com)
  • Global aphasia. Global aphasia results from extensive damage to the brain's language networks. People with global aphasia have severe disabilities with expression and comprehension. (mayoclinic.com)
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