Aphasia is a condition that affects the brain and leads to problems using language correctly.
People with aphasia make mistakes in the words they use, sometimes using the wrong sounds in a word, choosing the wrong word, or putting words together incorrectly.
Aphasia also affects speaking and writing in the same way. Many people with the condition find it difficult to understand words and sentences they hear or read.
Why does aphasia happen?
Aphasia is caused by damage to parts of the brain responsible for understanding and using language. Common causes include:
- stroke, thought to be the most common cause, around one in three people experience some degree of aphasia after having a stroke
- severe head injury
- brain tumour
- progressive neurological conditions (conditions that over time cause progressive brain and nervous system damage)
Read more about the causes of aphasia.
Types of aphasia
Aphasia is often classified as 'expressive' or 'receptive' aphasia, depending on whether there are difficulties with understanding or expressing language, or both.
Symptoms can range from getting a few words mixed up to having difficulty with all forms of communication, such as reading, writing, naming objects and understanding speech.
Some people are unaware their speech makes no sense and get frustrated when others don't understand.
Read more about the symptoms of aphasia.
How is aphasia treated?
A speech and language therapist (SLT) usually diagnoses the condition by testing your language capabilities. They can also help arrange treatment.
Speech and language therapy is the main type of treatment for people with aphasia. This aims to help restore some of your ability to communicate and also help you develop alternative ways of communicating, if necessary.
You may receive speech and language therapy on an individual basis, or in a group, depending on your needs and the service provided.
An increasing number of computer-based applications are available to support people with aphasia. However, it's important to start using these with the assistance of a speech and language therapist.
How successful treatment is differs from person to person, but most people with aphasia make some degree of recovery, and some recover fully. Even if aphasia persists, it does not mean a person is unable to live an independent and meaningful life.
However, the chances of recovery for people with aphasia related to progressive neurological conditions is poor. This is because there is no way of repairing or preventing the ongoing injury to the brain.
When aphasia is caused by a progressive condition, treatment focuses on making the most of what people can still do, and on developing other ways of communicating, to prepare for a time when speaking will be more difficult.
Read more about diagnosing aphasia and treating aphasia.
The challenges of living with aphasia can impact on how a person feels and interacts with others. In some cases it can led to:
If you're concerned about someone with aphasia, encourage them to discuss any problems with their GP or a member of their care team to access the relevant support. If the person is unable to do this themselves, they may require someone to communicate on their behalf.
Who is affected?
Aphasia is one of the most common communication disorders to affect the brain. Although there are no official figures, the Stroke Association estimates more than 376,000 stroke survivors in the UK are living with aphasia.
Aphasia can affect people of all ages, including children. It's most common in people over 65 years old as stroke and common progressive neurological conditions tend to affect older adults.
Page last reviewed: 19/01/2015
Next review due: 19/01/2017