• Aphasia

    Definition

    Aphasia is a communication disorder. Impairments with aphasia may include problems with the expression and/or understanding of language, as well as reading and writing. If you suspect you have this condition, contact your doctor.

    Causes

    Aphasia is caused by an injury to parts of the brain that are involved with language. The injury may be the result of:
    • Stroke (the most common cause)
    • Severe blow to the head
    • Gunshot wound
    • Other traumatic head injury
    • Brain tumor
    • Brain infection
    • Neurodegenerative disorders
    • Other brain conditions
    Stroke
    si1213 97870 1 Ischemic Stroke.jpg
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

    Risk Factors

    The following factor increases your chances of developing aphasia. If you have this risk factor, tell your doctor:
    • Middle-to-older age
    • Family history of aphasia
    • Prior history of transient ischemic attacks (TIA)—also called mini-strokes

    Symptoms

    Aphasia is a symptom of an underlying problem. It may include:
      Problems talking
      • Speaking in short, fragmented phrases
      • Putting words in the wrong order
      • Using incorrect grammar
      • Switching sounds or words
      • Speaking in nonsense
      • Anomia (word-finding problems; words "on the tip of the tongue")
      Problems understanding oral language
      • Needing extra time to process language
      • Difficulty following very fast speech
      • Taking the literal meaning of a figure of speech
    • Problems reading
    • Problems writing
    If you have any of these problems, do not assume it is aphasia. However, if you are having these problems, see your doctor.

    Diagnosis

    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 that specializes in the nervous system. This doctor will most likely be able to recognize your aphasia. Some simple tests may be done. For example, the doctor may ask you to follow commands, answer questions, name objects, and have a conversation. You may then be referred to a speech-language pathologist. This doctor will perform additional tests to assess your speech and language skills.
    Overall tests may include the following:
    • Evaluation of speech
    • Assessment of the strength and coordination of the speech muscles
    • Vocabulary and grammar tests
    • Comprehension tests
    • Reading and writing tests
    • Swallowing tests
    • Neuropsychological tests
    • Blood tests
    • MRI scan —a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of structures inside the head
    • CT scan —an x-ray that uses a computer to make images of structures inside the head
    • Electroencephalogram (EEG) —a test that records brain activity by measuring electrical currents through the brain. This test may be done in some situations.
    • Cerebrospinal fluid analysis —a sample of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from the lower back

    Treatment

    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment will focus on:
    • Treating the underlying cause of aphasia
    • Aphasia symptoms
    Options for treating aphasia itself include:

    Speech-Language Therapy

    A speech-language specialist will help you:
    • Use your remaining communication abilities
    • Restore lost abilities
    • Learn to compensate for language problems
    • Learn other methods of communicating.
    This therapy may take place in both individual and group settings.

    Family Counseling

    A speech-language therapist will help you and your family learn how to best communicate with each other.
    Psychological evaluation may also be helpful.

    Prevention

    The most common cause of aphasia is stroke. To help reduce your chances of a stroke:
    • Exercise regularly
    • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
    • Limit dietary salt and fat
    • Stop smoking
    • If you drink, do so in moderation.
    • Maintain an healthy weight
    • Monitor and control your blood pressure
    • Consider taking low-dose aspirin, if your physician recommends you do so.
    • Keep existing conditions, such as diabetes and high cholesterol , under control.
    • Seek immediate medical help if you experience symptoms of a stroke

    RESOURCES

    Brain Injury Association of America http://www.biausa.org

    National Aphasia Association http://www.aphasia.org

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    Aphasia Institute http://www.aphasia.ca

    York-Durham Aphasia Centre http://www.ydac.on.ca

    References

    Aphasia. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: http://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/Aphasia%5Finfo.htm. . Accessed September 4, 2012.

    Aphasia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated September 2, 2012. Accessed September 4, 2012.

    Aphasia. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders website. Available at: http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/voice/pages/aphasia.aspx . Accessed September 4, 2012.

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