Aphasia is a condition that seriously affects your ability to communicate. It can affect the individual’s verbal and written skills and often it occurs after an accident of head injury. The cells of the brain are affected severely causing disruption of communication. The portion of the brain that controls the language and communication skills is seriously affected in Aphasia. However this disease does not affect the individual’s intelligence. This communication disorder can be treated by improved communication methods and by practicing various modes of language skills.
Often the condition of aphasia occurs after a stroke or brain injury. This disorder develops after there is sudden block of blood flow or due to sudden rupture in the major blood vessel of the brain. It causes serious damage to the cells of the brain or cell death that involves in communication and language. A head injury or stroke or a tumor or an infection in the brain cells can be the cause of aphasia.
For some people there will be progressive degeneration of brain cells that controls the language. In later stages the affected person will eventually develop dementia. In some cases there can be temporary aphasia due to uncontrolled seizures or due to transient ischemic attack which disrupts the normal blood flow in the brain. The affected person will regain the verbal skills once the condition is reversed. It is reported that more than 40-50% of the people who develop a stroke will get aphasia.
There are many types of aphasia and it causes disruption of communication in various degrees.
- Expressive aphasia is one in which the affected person will know exactly what he/she wanted to express but will have difficulty in telling it. It occurs when the cells of language network gets seriously affected in the frontal portion of the brain. In this type often the listener can understand what the person is trying to communicate. This type is also called as Broca aphasia or Non fluent aphasia.
- Fluent aphasia is one where the middle portion of the frontal lobes of the brain is damaged. A person affected with fluent aphasia can speak fluently or read sentences but he cannot understand the meaning of the words. They cannot understand what they are talking and end up talking nonsense. They often use irrelevant words or unrecognizable words and the person who listens cannot understand what they are trying to communicate.
- Anomic aphasia is one in which the person will have problems in finding relevant words while talking. This would cause difficulty in talking and writing.
- Global aphasia is the serious type and most prevalent type which a person develops after a stroke or head injury. Here the person’s ability to speak or read is seriously affected. There will be extensive damage to the language network portion of the brain which leads to severe disability of speech and understanding.
- Primary progressive aphasia is very rare type in which the person’s ability to talk or write will get reduced gradually. Here the affected person will often use gestures to communicate and can improve their verbal skills by speech therapy.
In severe cases aphasia can affect the quality of life of the person causing disturbed relationships or loss of job.
Aphasia is not a disease but a sign of underlying disorder like stroke or brain infection. Some of the symptoms of aphasia are difficulty in talking, slurred speech, speaking incomplete sentence or using irrelevant words while communicating. The individual will not understand what others are taking or have difficulty in understanding them.
They will use sentences that are not recognized and write words that gives no meaning. The symptoms are not the same for every person since it varies according to the extent of damage caused to the brain. Individuals with mild symptom will struggle while making conversation and have trouble in choosing the right word while talking.
The doctor will look for the above symptoms and will make use of informal observation to assess the patient’s condition. He may ask you to name some objects kept in the table or ask you to repeat some words or narrate a story and ask some questions about it or use similar procedures for testing the person’s vocabulary skill. He may order for imaging tests like X-ray, CT scan of the brain to know the exact damage. He will have to find out the root cause of the disease which can be a stroke or head injury or brain infection.
Treatment for aphasia depends on the age, health condition and extent of brain injury of the patient. In case the damage is mild the person can easily recover with the help of speech therapy. If the problem is due to brain tumor, then surgery is to be done for improvement of communication. Underlying problem is to be treated for aphasia. Most of the affected person will show improvement through effective speech therapy. The therapist will teach various other means of communication to overcome the difficulty in language.
Language Rehabilitation :
This is an excellent remedy for people affected with aphasia to recover their language skills. There are people who regain full levels of communication after learning speech therapy. It is necessary that the person should start this therapy in early stages. Drawings, gestures and various other modes of communication is taught during therapy sessions. They will be taught to use books or boards for effective communication when they have trouble to find the right set of words.
Medications like piracetam or memantine are given for people with aphasia to clear the block or to improve the blood flow in the brain. Family support is absolutely necessary for affected people to overcome their inability. Friends should be understanding and cooperative to encourage the person to talk freely to avoid anxiety. They should be instructed to carry paper-pen whenever they go out and carry their identification card. With the help of doctor or therapist you can find some association or support groups.