Aphasia: A Speech and Language Disorder

Aphasia is one of the conditions that surfaces when a particular region of the brain is affected. When people acquire brain damage or disorders, there are so many effects that can result considering that the brain directs all of the voluntary and involuntary processes of the body. In this case, affected individuals will experience difficulty in speech or language. Knowing about the disorder more and realizing the effects and risks will help patients and families distinguish the proper interventions as well as coping methods for recovery.

About Aphasia

Aphasia is defined as a condition that stems from damage to certain regions of the brain. These regions are partially or primarily responsible for speech and language which is why damage to the area will most likely result to effects in the way people speak or communicate. The regions are usually found on the left hemisphere or part of the brain.

The condition can happen suddenly due to conditions like head trauma or stroke. In other cases, aphasia can also gradually develop if the person has certain progressing conditions like an infection in the brain, a brain tumor or dementia. The condition will change the way people understand language as well as speak or communicate. Many patients will have difficulty reading, writing and understanding words and sentences. Other speech disorders may also be present among patients such as apraxia or dysarthria.

The Types of Aphasia

Aphasia is categorized according to the manifestations, the region of the brain affected or the development of the condition. These can be grouped into four namely expressive, receptive, global and anomic aphasia. The expressive type usually involves patients who know and understand what they wish to say or express but have difficult writing or saying the terms or sentences.

The receptive type involves patients who can view or hear the language but cannot understand what these mean or how to interpret. The global type involves patients not having the ability to say, read, write or understand words or speech. The anomic type involves patients who have difficulty finding the right terms or descriptions for things, people, places or happenings.

Two General Types of Aphasia

Aphasia can also be grouped into two, depending part of the brain affected. When damage is present in the temporal lobe of the brain, the person may have what is referred to as Wernick’s aphasia or the fluent type. This is common among individuals who acquire damage at the left portion of the temporal region.

In some cases, this can still occur among those who have damage on the right side. Affected individuals usually speak in very long statements without any sense or thought. They might also add irrelevant terms or words that only they understand. Others will find it difficult to understand what the patient is trying to say. They are also aware of the problem in their speech. However, they can still perform normal activities and do not exhibit body malaise or weakness of body parts.

Broca’s aphasia or the non-fluent type usually involves damage at the frontal region or lobe of the brain. People who have this condition will generally express themselves in very short phrases. These usually are understandable although patients have to exert a lot of effort into the speech. They might also take out certain terms like linking verbs and prepositions. People with this condition are also aware of the problem and might often feel depressed or frustrated. People having the non-fluent type will also display paralysis or weakness of one side of the body since the region of the brain responsible for motor movements is affected.

Causes and Diagnosis of Aphasia

Aphasia can develop after people experience a traumatic injury or major health condition such as a stroke. The condition is not a disease in itself but a symptom of an underlying health problem.

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Many stroke patients develop the speech problems after recovering since several brain cells may have necrotized due to the lack of blood supply and nutrients to the area. The effects are usually irreparable although patients might improve the way they speak or understand language to a certain degree. Some other possible risks and causes include blows or injuries to the head, cancer, tumor development in the brain and infections.

Aphasia is first noticed when the patient shows difficulty speaking or find it hard to understand words. Doctors might perform a few tests or have a family member communicate to the patient to determine the extent and severity of the damage.

A neurologist can perform several evaluation tests to determine the ability of the person to understand words and sentences, remember names and descriptions of people, things and places and answer questions. A speech expert will further determine the speech and language capabilities of the patient by performing comprehensive diagnostic procedures. The patient may be asked to write, read or pronounce different terms.

Treatment of Aphasia

Patients with aphasia should generally be referred to a speech therapist. A number of exercises and activities will be performed to gradually improve the way the person understands and communicates. There will be exercises for reading, writing and communicating. Therapy to improve body weakness and other effects related to the damage to the brain may also be incorporated. Family members should participate in the treatment approach and help improve the person’s ability to analyze, think critically and argue. Over time, several patients get better in their communication and language skills.

Close monitoring is also important especially for patients who suffered a stroke or have other serious underlying conditions. There are medications and other home remedies provided by doctors to attend to the serious illnesses causing the language difficulty.

Aphasia can also be present with other symptoms so these should be attended to as well. It’s best to determine the capabilities of the person and keep a logbook. The patient can also be given tasks and more advanced exercises over time. Patients may also need to be monitored during feeding sessions especially if they have difficulty chewing or swallowing. Most patients are expected to get better after a few weeks or months of treatment.