What is Aphasia?

Aphasia is a brain or neurological disorder that affects a person’s ability to communicate. This disorder affects a person’s ability to speak and communicate orally. However, this is not the only area of communication that it affects. In addition to oral speech, it also affects a person’s ability to be able to understand language and communication, both in written and oral form.

It is important to keep in mind that aphasia does not mean that a person has lost intelligence, merely their ability to communicate or use language. So, in effect, being unable to understand written language also means losing the ability to write.

Aphasia can occur suddenly or gradually over the course of time and can be caused by a variety of different issues. Sudden head trauma such as from a fall or an accident can cause aphasia. A stroke can also cause this brain issue. Other possible causes of aphasia include brain tumors or lesions, infections, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and aphasia can also be a consequence of brain surgery or biopsy.

Temporary aphasia can also occur such as when a person has a seizure or what is known as a transient ischemic attack.

What are the Symptoms of Aphasia?

Aphasia affects communication.

Symptoms include

Symptoms include an inability to speak, write, read, or understand oral speech. Of course, if the condition is progressive or gradual, there are signs of it before a person is completely unable to communicate. Not being able to find the right word when speaking or writing is a common sign of aphasia. Speaking in short sentences, not completing sentences, using sentence structure or grammar that doesn’t make sense, of speaking the wrong word or sound can all also be signs of the progression of aphasia.

Aphasia Causes

The inability to comprehend and process language that is collectively known as Aphasia is most often caused by a stroke which causes brain damage on these processing centers. However, there is a myriad of diseases and other types of damage which can affect these same language centers which can result in a similar disability. Progressive neurological disorders, traumatic brain injury and brain tumors are some of the most common of these. The Herpes Simplex Virus is another one which can wreak havoc on the frontal and temporal lobes as well as the hippocampal tissue which can collectively result in Aphasia.

The left hemisphere of the brain is the one that will be most affected whenever any of these diseases or illnesses actually result in Aphasia. That is the portion which is responsible for language processing in general. Finally, epilepsy and migraines are particular chronic neurological disorders which can have transient Aphasia as an early (prodromal) or episodic symptom related to the condition. The fentanyl patch (used to control chronic pain) has seen Aphasia as a rare side effect which is listed on the documentation.

How is Aphasia Treated?

Sometimes, no treatment is required or effective for aphasia.


Aphasia can be treated with speech language therapy with the help and care of a speech-language pathologist.


There is some research also being done on medications that may help increase blood flow to the brain and therefore speed the recovery of language and speech abilities.


Surgery may be able to help if the aphasia is caused by a brain tumor that is disrupting the neural pathways and brain areas for language and speech.

Aphasia Prevention

The primary way to guard against Aphasia is to live a generally healthy lifestyle which is aimed at preventing the chance of a stroke since that is one of the biggest causes. Things such as exercising regularly, consuming a diet which is healthy and diverse, limiting the consumption of alcohol and eliminating tobacco use, and controlling blood pressure.

If a person incorporates all of these helpful steps into their life then the chance of acquiring Aphasia will be greatly reduced. Working with a speech pathologist can help to reverse some of the damage that this condition has caused and will also help to prevent further degradation which might otherwise occur if no steps are taken to reduce that likelihood.

Last Reviewed:
September 12, 2016
Last Updated:
June 11, 2018