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Understanding Aphasia: The Disorder That Steals Speech and Language

Understanding Aphasia: The Disorder That Steals Speech and Language

May 26, 2022

Imagine sitting down at a restaurant, and the server arrives to take your order. When you open your mouth to speak, strange words and sounds come out. Even though you know what you want to say, you can’t find the words to say it. 

This disorienting experience is a regular occurrence for someone suffering from aphasia, a language disorder affecting one’s ability to communicate. Receiving an aphasia diagnosis can feel overwhelming, but understanding this disorder can help you seek treatment right away. 

What is aphasia?

Aphasia is a communication disorder where you have problems speaking or understanding. It is not an exclusive diagnosis and is usually the result of damage to a part of the brain that controls language. This damage may be from a traumatic brain injury, stroke, infection or tumor. There are different types of aphasia, and diagnosis depends on what part of the brain is affected. Fortunately, aphasia is a treatable condition. 

Types of aphasia

When evaluating for aphasia, doctors consider fluency, comprehension and repetition. There are eight types of aphasia: 

  • Broca’s aphasia is common and affects fluency but not comprehension. It may affect repetition, and paralysis on one side of the body may also occur. 
  • Wernicke’s aphasia is common and affects syntax. It can also affect comprehension, repetition and vision. 
  • Global aphasia, the most severe type, is characterized by a loss of fluency and comprehension. Repetition may or may not be affected. People diagnosed with global aphasia may also experience vision loss and paralysis. 
  • Transcortical sensory aphasia is a less severe form of Wernicke’s aphasia. It often gets diagnosed alongside degenerative brain diseases. 
  • Transcortical motor aphasia affects fluency but not comprehension or repetition. 
  • Mixed transcortical aphasia affects fluency and comprehension, but not repetition. 
  • Conduction aphasia affects fluency but not comprehension, and it may affect pronunciation and repetition. 
  • Anomic aphasia affects comprehension, making it hard to remember names and descriptive words. 

Several neurological conditions overlap with aphasia. For instance, progressive primary aphasia (PPA) is a degenerative brain disease that results in the gradual loss of ability to read, write, speak or understand what others are saying. PPA often accompanies illnesses such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. Other neurological conditions include agraphia, the inability to write, and alexia, also known as word blindness. 

How speech therapy can help

Although there is no cure for aphasia, it has many effective treatment options, including speech therapy. A licensed speech therapist can implement strategies to help patients regain the ability to speak, comprehend, read and write. Speech therapists also work with families and loved ones to educate them on best communication practices. 

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with aphasia, call 856-508-3530 to schedule an evaluation with a speech therapist today. 

Inspira Health is a high reliability organization (HRO), which means safety is the top priority for patients and staff.

Contributions to this article made by Kelly Patterson, MS, CCC-SLP, speech language pathologist.

Topics: Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation