Aphasia is a disorder that results from damage to portions of the brain that are responsible for language. This disorder can affect the ability to speak and write, as well as the ability to understand words when reading or listening.
Generally, people with aphasia will be wrong in choosing and stringing words into a correct sentence. However, this condition does not affect the level of intelligence and memory of the sufferer.
Aphasia usually occurs suddenly, often following a stroke or head injury, but it may also develop slowly, as the result of a brain tumor or a progressive neurological disease.
What Causes Aphasia?
Aphasia is not a disease, but rather a symptom that indicates damage to the part of the brain that regulates language and communication. Aphasia is caused by damage to one or more of the language areas of the brain. Most often, the cause of the brain injury is a stroke. A stroke occurs when a blood clot or a leaking or burst vessel cuts off blood flow to part of the brain. Brain cells die when they do not receive their normal supply of blood, which carries oxygen and important nutrients. Approximately 25-40% of stroke patients will suffer from aphasia.
Brain damage caused by a severe head injury, brain tumor, or encephalitis can also cause aphasia. In these cases, the aphasia usually occurs with other types of cognitive problems, such as memory problems and impaired consciousness.
In addition, aphasia can occur due to diseases that cause decreased function of brain cells, such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease. In this condition, aphasia will develop gradually as the disease progresses.
Aphasia is a sign of some other condition, such as a stroke or a brain tumor. People with aphasia may have different patterns of strengths and weaknesses. Based on the symptoms that appear, aphasia can be divided into several types.
- Wernicke’s Aphasia
Wernicke’s aphasia is also known as “receptive aphasia” or “sensory aphasia”. Wernicke’s aphasia is usually caused by damage to the brain in the left center. Persons with Wernicke’s aphasia will have difficulty understanding the words that are heard or read. They may fail to realize that they are using the wrong words or using a non-existent word and often they are not fully aware that what they say doesn’t make sense.
- Brocas’s Aphasia
Broca’s aphasia is also known as “non-fluent aphasia” or “expressive aphasia”. People with Broca’s aphasia have trouble speaking fluently. They may repeat words or simple phrases over and over, but struggle to or can’t repeat something you say to them. Broca’s aphasia is usually caused by damage to the brain on the left front.
- Global Aphasia
Global aphasia is the most severe form of aphasia. Global aphasia is usually caused by extensive damage to the brain. Persons with Global Aphasia can neither read nor write. People with global aphasia also have severe disabilities with expression and comprehension.
- Primary Progressive Aphasia
People with primary progressive aphasia gradually lose the ability to speak, write, read or understand what others are saying. Primary progressive aphasia is rare and difficult to treat.
- Anomic Aphasia
People with anomic aphasia or anomia often have difficulty choosing and finding the right words when writing and speaking.
When to See a Doctor?
Because aphasia is often a sign of a serious problem, such as a stroke, seek emergency medical care if you experience any of the above symptoms. A doctor’s examination is needed to prevent the condition from getting worse and prevent complications.
How is Aphasia Diagnosed?
To diagnose aphasia, the doctor will ask the patient’s symptoms as well as the patient’s and family’s medical history, either directly to the patient or to the family accompanying the patient.
After that, a thorough physical examination will be carried out including an examination of the nervous system.
To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor will also perform several supporting examinations below:
- Communication Assessment
This examination aims to measure the patient’s ability to write, read, speak, understand conversation, and verbal expression.
- Brain Scan
Aphasia is usually recognized by the physician who treats the person for his or her brain injury. Most individuals will undergo a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scan to confirm the presence of a brain injury and to identify its precise location.
How is Aphasia Treated?
Treatment of aphasia depends on the type of aphasia, the part of the brain that is damaged, the cause of the brain damage, and the age and condition of the patient. If the brain damage is mild, the aphasia may improve on its own. If the condition is severe enough, treatment can be carried out using the following methods:
- Speech Therapy
Speech and language therapy sessions aim to improve communication and speaking skills. This therapy session should be done regularly. Speech therapy can be done using technology such as computer programs or applications. This therapy is recommended for patients with aphasia due to stroke.
Some types of drugs can also be given by the doctor to help treat aphasia. The drugs given usually work by increasing blood flow to the brain, preventing further brain damage, and increasing the amount of chemical compounds that are reduced in the brain.
Aphasia can create numerous quality of life problems because communication is so much a part of our life. Communication difficulty may affect daily life of the sufferer, including in terms of work, relationships, and day to day function. If not treated properly, aphasia can also lead to anxiety disorders, depression, and feelings of isolation.
How to Prevent Aphasia?
Because aphasia happens unpredictably, so it’s not possible to prevent it. However, we can try to prevent conditions that cause it or reduce your risk of developing those conditions. Some of the things we can do include:
- Quit smoking
- Avoid consuming alcoholic beverages
- Eat a balanced diet and maintain a healthy weight
- Do regular exercise for at least 30 minutes every day
- Keeping the mind active, for example by reading or writing