3 Facts About Aphasia

A blueprint of a stroke

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), there are 180,000 cases of aphasia every year i n the US. Aphasia results from brain damage and impairs a person’s ability to use reception language (reading or listening) and/or expressive language (writing or speaking). Here are three important facts about aphasia.

Fact # 1: There may be different causes of Aphasia, but they all entail damage to the part of the brain that deals with language.

One of the common causes of aphasia is stroke occurring on the brain’s left side. A stroke disrupts the blood flow to the brain by rupturing a blood vessel or forming a clot. This deprives that area of the brain of oxygen, leading to the death of brain cells.

People can also suffer from a transient ischemic attack, also known as a mini-stroke. It involves a temporary blockage of blood vessels in the brain.

Traumatic brain injury can also cause aphasia. TBI is an umbrella term outlining brain injuries with different severity levels. Brain injury can result from a concussion or something piercing your skull and damaging your brain tissues.

When brain damage from any of the above reasons occurs to your brain, especially to the Wernicke’s area (part of Brodmann area 22) or Broca’s area (Brodmann areas 44 and 45), it can lead to aphasia.

Fact # 2: Primary progressive aphasia gradually degrades the brain tissue, while global aphasia results from damage to different language areas of the brain.

While aphasia is typically a result of a traumatic brain injury or stroke, sometimes degenerative brain diseases like Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration or Alzheimer’s Disease can cause a type of aphasia known as Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA).

The impairments caused by this type of aphasia depend on the affected brain tissues, but the symptoms tend to worsen with time as more and more tissues degrade. The only way to treat PPA is to slow down its progression by helping patients adapt to the difficulties in communication.

Global aphasia, on the other hand, is caused by damage to multiple language-related parts of the brain. For instance, a stroke can damage both Wernicke’s and Broca’s areas. Due to this, both receptive and expressive language can get significantly impaired. Global aphasia can make it difficult for people to produce grammatically coherent sentences and understand spoken or written language.

Fact # 3: Aphasia is different from apraxia

Apraxia (link to blog 1) is a speech disorder that results from stroke and can impact the communicative abilities of a person. However, it’s not the same as aphasia.

In speech apraxia, a person finds it hard to move their facial muscles to speak. However, there’s no weakness, paralysis, or injury in those muscles. In aphasia, a person faces difficulty moving their tongue, lips, throat, and soft palate for non-speech-related purposes.

Please note that apraxia doesn’t deal with the inability of muscles to produce speech. Instead, it’s related to inadequate computational and cognitive processes of speech.

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