What is aphasia?

People with aphasia may have difficulty finding words or understanding what's being said. They may also have trouble writing their thoughts and ideas or understanding what they read. The most common cause of aphasia is a stroke. Other common causes of this condition include brain injury, brain infection, or a brain tumor that affects the language center of the brain. It may also be caused by dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease, and in some cases, epilepsy.

Types of aphasia

Aphasia may be mild to severe, and may affect a person's ability to communicate. It may affect speech or writing ability, or it may affect a person's ability to understand what's being spoken or written. The different types of aphasia include:

  • Expressive aphasia – When the person knows what they want to say but have a hard time communicating it, either verbally or in writing
  • Receptive aphasia – When the person has difficulty understanding what is said or written
  • Anomic aphasia – When the person has difficulty finding the right words to speak or write
  • Global aphasia – When the person is unable to read, write, speak or understand words (often right after having had a stroke)
  • Primary progressive aphasia – When the person slowly loses the ability to read, write, speak and understand; a rare disorder for which there is no treatment

Diagnosis and treatments for aphasia

In order to diagnose aphasia, a physician will perform a number of tests, such as asking the person to identify names of common objects. The types of testing performed will also depend on the cause of the aphasia. In cases of brain tumor, for example, surgical removal of the tumor may improve the condition.

Aphasia treatment options

Treatment may include medication and speech and language therapy.

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