Aphasia is not a disease, but a symptom of brain damage. It’s a neurological disorder caused by damage to the portions of the brain that are responsible for language. Primary signs of the disorder include difficulty in expressing yourself when speaking, trouble understanding speech, and difficulty with reading and writing. Most commonly seen in adults who have suffered a stroke, aphasia can also result from a brain tumor, infection, head injury, or dementia that damages the brain. It’s estimated that about 1 million people in the United States today suffer from these symptoms. The type and severity of language dysfunction depends on the precise location and extent of the damaged brain tissue.
Generally, aphasia can be divided into four broad categories:
What is the Prognosis?
The outcome of aphasia is difficult to predict given the wide range of variability of the condition. Generally, people who are younger or have less extensive brain damage fare better. The location of the injury is also important and is another clue to prognosis. In general, patients tend to recover skills in language comprehension more completely than those skills involving expression.
What Can You Do?
In some instances, an individual will completely recover from aphasia without treatment. In most cases, however, language therapy should begin as soon as possible and be tailored to the individual needs of the patient. Rehabilitation with a speech pathologist involves extensive exercises in which patients read, write, follow directions, and repeat what they hear. Computer-aided therapy may supplement standard language therapy.