Causes of aphasia 

Aphasia is the result of damage to the parts of the brain involved in speaking, reading, writing and understanding others.

Any damage to the language areas of the brain can result in loss of function, leading to aphasia. The severity of a person's aphasia depends on the location and type of injury sustained by the brain.

Aphasia can occur by itself, or alongside other disorders such as visual difficulties, mobility problems, limb weakness and cognitive changes.

Aphasia affects a person’s language but it doesn't affect a person’s intelligence.

Brain damage

Ways the brain can become damaged include:

  • stroke – during a stroke the brain is deprived of blood and oxygen, which leads to the death of brain tissue
  • severe head injury – for example, an injury as a result of a road traffic accident or following a serious fall from height
  • brain tumour – where an abnormal growth of cells develops inside the brain
  • health conditions that cause progressive loss of cells from the brain, such as dementia. Parkinson's disease does not cause aphasia, but some very similar conditions may do so, such as progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) or corticobasal degeneration (CBD)
  • infections that affect the brain, such as meningitis (an infection of the outer layer of the brain) and encephalitis (an infection of the brain itself), although this is a much rarer cause of aphasia

Stroke: an animation

This animation explains how a stroke happens, the different types of stroke and how lifestyle changes may help to reduce the risks.

Media last reviewed: 03/05/2016

Next review due: 03/05/2018

Page last reviewed: 19/01/2015

Next review due: 19/01/2017