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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Sep 3, 2023.

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 is usually caused by a brain injury or 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?

Signs and symptoms depend on the area of the brain that was damaged:

  • Trouble finding and speaking words, even for short phrases or in writing
  • Speaking in long sentences that have no meaning
  • Useless or made up words added to sentences
  • Trouble understanding what others say, or trouble reading
  • Not being able to express thoughts through speech or writing

How is aphasia diagnosed?

A healthcare provider may recognize signs of aphasia during a conversation or writing exercise. Mild aphasia may be more difficult to recognize. The following tests can help diagnose aphasia and show if it is mild or severe:

  • MRI or PET scan pictures may show damaged areas of the brain. No one should enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious damage. Tell the healthcare provider about any metal that could react to the MRI magnet.
  • Speech-language assessment is used by a specialist to test the ability to speak and read.

How is aphasia treated?

Some people recover without treatment. Medicines or surgery may be needed to treat the brain injury. These treatments may also improve aphasia. Most people with aphasia need speech-language therapy. Speech-language therapy can help with exercises to improve communication. Ask for more information on aphasia exercises.

What can help make communication easier?

  • Help others understand how to communicate effectively. A speech-language therapist can help create a book that has pictures, words, or symbols to help with communication. Others may need to speak more slowly and clearly, or only write words. It may help to have a pen and pad of paper available at all times.
  • Have extra time for listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Phone calls or conversations should be at times when it is easy to focus. Communication should never be rushed or done along with another task.
  • Reduce distractions. If possible, turn off any TV, music, or other sound during conversations or reading. Background noise can make it more difficult to focus.
  • Ask about technology. Software programs can be loaded onto computers that help with communication. Examples include software that types words as they are spoken, or that read text on the computer aloud. The speed can be slowed as needed to help with understanding spoken words. A speech-language therapist can help set up adaptive technology to help with written and spoken communication.
  • Ask about medical alert identification. Medical alert jewelry or an identification card can help others understand the communication problems caused by aphasia. Ask a healthcare provider where to get medical alert identification. The jewelry or card should be carried at all times.
    Medical Alert Jewelry

For 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:

When should I contact a healthcare provider?

  • The person's communication problems are getting worse.
  • The person is depressed because of communication problems.
  • You have questions or concerns about the person's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.