What Is Aphasia?
Aphasia is a condition that affects your ability to communicate in written or verbal form. The condition ranges from mild to severe and is the result of either brain injury or disease in the left side of the cerebral cortex. In the elderly, aphasia is most commonly the result of a stroke.
Because language skills are rooted in the left side of the brain, a disease or injury to that side of the brain results in language problems. While stroke is the cause of the majority of aphasia cases, there are other causes as well. These include:
Brain disorders that worsen over time, such as dementia (Alzheimer’s disease in particular)
Traumatic brain injury
Diagnosing aphasia typically requires a clinical examination and an MRI or computed tomography scan. Prior to any testing, physicians suspect the condition when an individual experiences the following:
Difficulty in speech comprehension — affected people may not be able to understand spoken or written words.
Poor writing — Affected people may be unable to write coherent sentences.
Garbled speech — Words spoken are not actual words.
Speech substitution — Incorrect words or sounds are substituted for correct ones.
Other speech problems — An aphasia sufferer may say things that don’t make sense or talk in incomplete, short sentences.
While aphasia sufferers rarely regain all communication skills, most experience significant improvement through proper treatment. Treatment options include:
Therapy — As with other speech and language problems, aphasia is best dealt with through speech and language therapy. Therapy is most effective when started immediately after the onset of aphasia and may make use of computer assistance and/or group therapy settings.
Medication — Currently, there is no definitive answer on whether medication is helpful for overcoming aphasia. However, there is ongoing research that indicates medications that boost the brain’s recovery ability, replace the brain’s neurotransmitters or increase blood flow to the brain may help treat aphasia.
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