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What is aphasia?

Aphasia is a condition that decreases the ability to speak, read, write, or understand others. Aphasia can be a short-term or long-term problem.

What causes aphasia?

Aphasia usually results from brain damage. A stroke is the most common brain injury that causes aphasia. Other causes include brain diseases such as cancer, epilepsy, and Alzheimer disease.

What are the signs and symptoms of aphasia?

  • Nonfluent aphasia: This is also called Broca aphasia. The person has trouble finding and speaking words, even for short phrases. Writing may also be affected.
  • Fluent aphasia: This is also called Wernicke aphasia. The person may speak in long sentences that have no meaning. He may add useless words or even make up new words. He may have trouble understanding what others say. Reading may also be affected.
  • Global aphasia: This is the most severe form of aphasia. The person may have difficulty expressing himself and understanding what other people say. Both reading and writing may be affected.

How is aphasia diagnosed?

  • An MRI of the head takes pictures of your brain, blood vessels, and skull. You may be given contrast liquid to help the pictures show up better. Tell a healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell a healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.
  • PET scan: Pictures are taken of the brain so the healthcare provider can find damaged areas.
  • Speech-language assessment: A specialist called a speech-language pathologist tests the person's ability to speak and read.

How is aphasia treated?

Some people recover without treatment. Medicines or surgery may be needed to treat the initial brain injury. These treatments may also improve aphasia. Most people with aphasia need speech-language therapy. The person may be frustrated when he tries to communicate. Speech-language therapy can teach him to speak slowly, use simple sentences, and avoid background noise.

Where can I find support and more information?

  • National Aphasia Association
    350 Seventh Avenue
    New York , NY 10001
    Phone: 1- 800 - 922-4622
    Web Address:
  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
    2200 Research Boulevard
    Rockville , MD 20850-3289
    Phone: 1- 800 - 638-8255
    Web Address:

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