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June: National Aphasia Awareness Month

Have you ever heard of aphasia? If not, you probably don't know that June is National Aphasia Awareness Month. To help support awareness efforts, this article will give you an overview of aphasia.

What is Aphasia?

Aphasia affects a person's ability to communicate. Aphasia can affect speech, the ability to write, and the ability to understand the written and spoken word. The severity of the aphasia depends on the cause and how extensive the person's brain damage is. Typically, the onset of aphasia is sudden, but it can also be a gradual progression depending on the root cause of the issue.

What Are the Symptoms of Aphasia?

Aphasia is typically a sign of another, severe condition like a stroke or brain tumor. People with aphasia may exhibit any or all of the following symptoms:

  1. Speaking in incomplete or short sentences.

  2. Speaking sentences that make no sense.

  3. Substituting one word or sound for a different word or sound.

  4. Speaking unrecognizable words.

  5. Not understanding other people when they attempt to have a conversation.

  6. Writing sentences that make no sense.

Kinds of Aphasia

There are three patterns of aphasia, each characterized by different strengths and weaknesses.

  • Expressive aphasia, also called nonfluent or Broca's, is characterized by people understanding others better than they can speak. These people struggle with saying words, omit words, and speak in very short sentences. People with this aphasia pattern get frustrated because they are aware of their difficulty communicating.

Broca aphasia is characterized by damage to the front part of the brain where the language centers are. These people may also experience some paralysis on their right side.

  • Comprehensive aphasia is also called Wernicke's or fluent aphasia. This kind of aphasia is characterized by long, complex sentences full of unrecognizable, unnecessary, or incorrect words. The sentences don't make sense, and they usually don't understand spoken language or realize that other people don't understand them when they speak.

People experiencing Wernicke's aphasia have sustained brain damage on the side of the brain's language centers.

  • Global aphasia is characterized by difficulty forming words or sentences and poor language comprehension. This kind of aphasia results from extensive brain damage within the brain's language centers. People with this kind of aphasia have severe issues with both expression and comprehension.

What Are the Causes of Aphasia?

Aphasia results from damage to at least one language area in the brain. The most prevalent cause of brain injuries resulting in aphasia is stroke. Other causes of brain injuries that result in aphasia include brain tumors, brain infections, gunshot wounds, severe blows to the head, and progressive neurological disorders like Alzheimer's or Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS).

Final Thoughts

Aphasia is characterized by difficulty expressing and understanding language. It's caused by damage to one or multiple portions of the brain's language centers. Several forms of brain injuries can cause damage. People experiencing aphasia may or may not realize that others can't understand them when they speak.

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