Aphasia

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What is aphasia?

Aphasia is a speech impairment caused by damage to the part of the brain that controls language. It can cause issues for reading, writing, and oral expression. There are four different kind of aphasia:

  • Expressive aphasia: the patient knows what they want to say but has issues when they try to write it or express it.
  • Receptive aphasia: the patient can read or listen to information but it makes no sense to them.
  • Anomic aphasia: the patient has difficulties using words correctly, describing objects or places, and general word retrieval failure.
  • Global aphasia: the patient struggles to understand what is being said to them, to communicate, read, or write.

Condition prognosis

Progression of the condition is difficult to predict as there is a wide range of variability. Younger patients tend to have better recovery. The location of the lesion is important to diagnose progression. On the whole, patients tend to regain comprehension skills before being able to communicate.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms directly affect expression causing a language disorder. Patients begin to not be able to construct grammatically correct sentences and instead use short sentences or loose words to communicate. The word order used is by importance of subject rather than being grammatically correct. Other symptoms that may appear include:

  • Speaking in sentences that do not make sense
  • Speaking unrecognisable words
  • Not understanding other people’s conversations
  • Interpret figurative language literally
  • Writing in sentences that do not make sense.

Tests for aphasia

The doctor will do a physical and neurological examination, assessing resistance, sensitivity, and reflexes. If the doctor notices something unusual they will likely recommend that an imaging test is done, such as an MRI scan, to be able to find out more about the cause of the aphasia.

Informal tests may be carried out to assess daily language skills such as naming common objects, having a conversation, understanding and using words correctly, repeating words and sentences, reading and writing, and many more language use related skills.

What causes it?

This condition is common in adults who have brain tumours, brain injuries, or dementia. Depending on the part of the brain that is damaged and the extent of this damage, the severity can be evaluated. Other causes include a stroke, where recovery can take up to two years, although not all patients fully recover. Another cause is loss of brain function, in this case aphasia does not improve.  

How can it be prevented?

In order to prevent this condition, avoiding habits or actions which could cause or trigger strokes is recommended, such as ensuring your blood sugar is normal, and avoiding smoking and being overweight.    

What is the treatment?

There are cases in which a patient recovers from aphasia without treatment, however, most patients need speech and language therapy. Treatment should be carried out by a speech therapist and it involves exercises where the patient reads, writes, repeats what is said to them, and other communication related exercises. Nowadays, a lot of the exercises can be done online thanks to new technologies.  

Which specialist should be seen?

The specialist for this condition is a speech therapist, they specialise in language disorders and detect, evaluate, diagnose, and treat language related disorders.      

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