Aphasia is a disorder that affects the ability to communicate. People with aphasia may have difficulty with the expression and/or understanding of language, as well as reading and writing. There are 2 types of aphasia: Expressive aphasia: difficulty communicating thoughts through speech and writingReceptive aphasia: problems understanding spoken or written language
Aphasia is caused by an injury to parts of the brain that are involved with language. The injury may be the result of: Stroke—most common cause
Traumatic head injuryGunshot woundBrain tumorBrain infectionNeurodegenerative disordersOther brain conditions
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Aphasia is more common in older people. Other factors that may increase your chance of aphasia include: Increasing ageFamily history of aphasiaPrior history of transient ischemic attacks (TIA)—also called mini-strokes
Aphasia is a symptom of an underlying problem. It may include:
Speaking in short, fragmented phrasesPutting words in the wrong orderUsing incorrect grammarSwitching sounds or wordsSpeaking in nonsenseAnomia—word-finding problems
Problems understanding oral language:
Needing extra time to process languageDifficulty following very fast speechTaking the literal meaning of a figure of speechProblems readingProblems writing
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
If you have a brain condition, you are probably already seeing a doctor who specializes in the nervous system. This doctor will most likely be able to recognize your aphasia. Some simple tests may be done. For example, you may be asked to follow commands, answer questions, name objects, and have a conversation. You may then be referred to a speech-language pathologist who will perform additional tests to assess your speech and language skills.
Imaging tests are used to evaluate the brain and other structures. These may include: MRI scanCT scan
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with: Blood testsLumbar puncture—to test cerebrospinal fluid that protects the brain and spinal cord
Your brain activity may be measured. This can be done with
You may also be given the following specialized tests: Evaluation of speechAssessment of the strength and coordination of the speech musclesVocabulary and grammar testsComprehension testsReading and writing testsSwallowing testsNeuropsychological tests
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment will focus on: Treating the underlying cause of aphasiaAphasia symptoms
Options for treating aphasia itself include:
A speech-language specialist will help you: Use your remaining communication abilitiesRestore lost abilitiesLearn to compensate for language problemsLearn other methods of communicating.
This therapy may take place in both individual and group settings.
A speech-language therapist will help you and your family learn how to best communicate with each other.
Psychological evaluation may also be helpful.
Since stroke is a common cause of aphasia, follow these guidelines to help prevent stroke: Exercise
Eat plenty of
fruits and vegetables
in your diet.
If you smoke, talk to your doctor about how to successfully quit.
If you drink, do so in moderation. Moderation is 2 or less drinks per day for men and 1 or less drinks per day for women.
Ask your doctor if you should take low-dose aspirin.
Properly treat and control chronic conditions, like
If you have signs of a stroke, call for emergency medical services right away.
Aphasia. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at:
May 21, 2013.
Aphasia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 2, 2012. Accessed May 21, 2013.
Aphasia. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders website. Available at:
Updated October 2008. Accessed May 21, 2013.
Last reviewed January 2015 by Rimas Lukas, MD
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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