Aphasia refers to an impairment or loss of language. It is a condition which affects a person’s ability to communicate due to language loss. Aphasia can affect the ability to understand language, speak, name objects, write or read. Both verbal and non-verbal (writing, signing, expressions) reception and expression can be affected.
The most common causes of aphasias:
- Gradual degeneration of brain cells in the language networks
- Transient ischemic attack
- Brain damage due to head injury, tumors or infections.
Symptoms of aphasia vary depending majorly on the type of aphasia.
Major three types of aphasia are:
- Receptive aphasia: also known as fluent aphasia or Wernicke’s aphasia. Comprehension of spoken language is affected in people with receptive aphasia. They can speak fluently in long, complex sentences but the sentences may not make any sense or may include incorrect, unrecognisable or unnecessary words.
- Expressive aphasia: also known as non-fluent or Broca’s aphasia. Comprehension of spoken language is intact in people with expressive aphasia. They cannot speak fluently. They may struggle to say words, or speak in very short sentences or omit words, mostly functional words and communicate using only content words.
- Global aphasia: this type of aphasia is characterised by poor comprehension and expression. It results from extensive damage to the brain’s language network.
- Physical examination
- Neurological examination
- Speech and language evaluation
- Imaging procedure such as MRI
The major cause of aphasia is a stroke and therefore measures to prevent stroke can reduce chances of aphasia. These measures include:
- Regular exercise
- Healthy diet
- Monitoring and maintaining blood sugar, cholesterol and pressure levels
- Avoid smoking and alcohol
- Managing stress.
Treatment methods include:
- Speech and language intervention: It is done by a speech language pathologist. It aims at improving the person’s communication abilities by restoring language as much as possible, training methods to cope up with the lost language skills and finding alternative methods of communication, if necessary.
- Certain medications are being used in the treatment of aphasia that helps to improve blood flow to the brain and enhance the brain’s ability to recover.
- Brain stimulation methods are also being used to stimulate damaged brain cells.
Treatment for aphasia may not be necessary if the brain damage is very mild as the person may recover on his own.
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