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Aphasia Awareness: What are the Signs, Causes and Treatment?

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Aphasia
Aphasia

Aphasia: An overview of the Language Disorder

Aphasia is a disorder where the person has a problem with communication. 

According to the National Aphasia Foundation (NAA), it affects mostly middle-aged people and nearly 1 million people in the United States suffer from Aphasia.

Aphasia awareness
Aphasia awareness represented by grey colour

June is the National Aphasia Awareness Month and represented by the grey colour.

What causes Aphasia?

Damage to one or more language areas of the brain is responsible for the language disorder. Mostly, this is because of a brain injury or a stroke. Other causes may be

  • brain tumours,
  • infections,
  • severe blows/hits to the head (mostly wrestlers) and
  • progressive neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

The problem arises because of the damage to the part of the brain that controls the communication (language) ability. It can affect your ability to speak, read, write, listen, or understand speech.

Brain damage can also result in other problems. These problems include.

 Dysarthrias: weakness or lack of control in the face muscles that result in slow or slurred speech. 

Apraxia: the inability to move the tongue or lips properly to say sounds, and 

Dysphagia: related to swallowing problems.

Signs and Symptoms:

Signs of aphasia differ in each case. It depends on the affected part of the brain and the severity of the damage. Also, the symptoms can be mild to severe. Aphasia can affect your ability to speak, write, read, comprehend, and express communication. 

Aphasia signs
Aphasia signs

Signs often include:

  • Trouble expressing oneself when speaking or writing
  • A problem in naming people, places, or objects, specifically termed as the “tip of the tongue” phenomenon.
  • Improper word order
  • Leaving out small words from speech
  • Being unaware of mistakes in spoken language
  • Speaking only short phrases with difficulty
  • Mixing up words and sounds in words
  • Limited speech or chanting the same words or phrases
  • Saying the wrong word or substituting a word that makes little sense 
  • Difficulty in putting words together to write sentences
  • Trouble in using numbers 
  • Face problems in understanding other people’s speech
  • Have difficulty in following fast-paced speech

Types of Aphasia:

The four major types of aphasia are:

  1. Fluent
  2. Nonfluent
  3. Conduction
  4. Global

1. Fluent:

We also call it Wernicke’s aphasia, and it involves damage to the middle left side of the brain.

In this type,

  • You can speak, but you have trouble understanding when others speak.
  • You may say many words, however, they make little sense.
  • Or sometimes, you can combine a series of words that sound like a sentence but don’t make sense or are poorly understandable.

2. Nonfluent:

We also know it Broca’s aphasia. If you have nonfluent aphasia, you’ll 

  • Feel weakness on the right side of your body
  • Speak short, incomplete sentences,
  • May convey basic messages, but you may miss some words, like is, of, are, etc.
  • Difficulty in understanding what others say
  • Feel frustration because you realize others can’t understand you

3. Conduction:

Conduction aphasia involves trouble repeating certain words or phrases. In this type, you’ll likely understand when others are talking, but you may make some mistakes while speaking.

4. Global:

Global aphasia involves major damage to the front and back of the left side of your brain. In this type, you’ll probably.

  • Have severe problems using and understanding words
  • Have little ability to use a few words together, or form sentences

Diagnosis of Aphasia:

In the physical exam, a speech-language pathologist can identify your specific communication disabilities. While examination, they’ll check your ability to:

  • Speak clearly by engaging in a conversation
  • Name common objects
  • Answer yes-no questions 
  • Read
  • write
  • Express ideas logically
  • Test verbal and written language
  • Ability to swallow
  • Repeat words and sentences.

Dr will ask for an imaging test, to identify what’s causing the aphasia. A CT scan or MRI scan can help them identify the exact location and severity of your brain damage.

Treatment:

Aphasia therapy
Aphasia therapy

If the brain damage is minor, you may recover language skills without treatment. However, most people undergo speech-language therapy to recover their language skills. This therapy typically proceeds slowly and the treatment plan may involve:

  • Exercises to improve your communication skills
  • Learning to use other forms of communication, such as drawings and adaptive learning techniques
  • Using computers to relearn word sounds 
  • Take part in groups to practice your communication skills for better learning

Role of Family in treating a person with Aphasia:

Group conversation speech therapy
Group conversation speech therapy

Family involvement is important for treating a person with a language or communication disorder. It enables family members to learn the best way to communicate with the patient. Therapists advise family members to:

  • Take part in therapy sessions, 
  • Use simple language and short sentences.
  • Repeat the content words to clarify the meaning 
  • Include a natural conversational manner appropriate for an adult.
  • Limite the use of a loud radio or TV
  • Involve the person with aphasia in conversations.
  • Encourage other ways of communication, like speech, gesture, pointing, or drawing.
  • Avoid correcting the person’s speech.
  • Allow the person to talk.
  • Help the person in social activities.

Remember that Aphasia is a language or communication disorder. You might face difficulty in conveying your message. However, it doesn’t affect the memory and the speech problems are resolved through speech-language sessions. In simpler terms, you can say it the loss of words, but not the thoughts.

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Uzma is a part-time writer and a stay at home parent. :)

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