Varieties of Aphasia

Aphasia is a condition that affects language. It occurs when parts of the brain involved with language and communication are damaged. People who have aphasia can have trouble with things like speaking, reading, or listening. It often comes on suddenly, due to something like a head injury or stroke and may also develop slowly over time from diseases like a tumour or a degenerative neurological condition.

It is broken down into two categories:

  • Nonfluent aphasia. Speech is difficult or halting, and some words may be absent. However, a listener can still understand what the speaker is trying to say.
  • Fluent aphasia. Speech flows more easily, but the content of the message lacks meaning

This article is a supplement to the previous article in the blog that discusses about handling aphasia for seniors.

Global Aphasia

Global aphasia is the most severe form of aphasia, and is applies to patients who can neither read nor write totally. It is caused by injuries to multiple language-processing areas of the brain, including those known as Wernicke’s and Broca’s areas. These brain areas are particularly important for understanding spoken language, accessing vocabulary, using grammar, and producing words and sentences. Severe and lasting disability may form in the long run if these injuries are more severe.

Broca’s Aphasia

Also known as ‘non-fluent aphasia’, due the halting and effortful quality of speech. The patient’s speech output is severely reduced and the formation of sounds by persons with Broca’s aphasia is often laborious and clumsy, with a noticeable difficulty using verbs than using nouns. While a person with Broca’s aphasia may understand speech relatively well, they may have harder times understanding sentences with more complex grammatical construct. Individuals with this type of aphasia may be able to read but be limited in writing.

Wernicke’s Aphasia

Also known as ‘fluent aphasia’. Wernicke’s area is a part of the brain that is responsible for language comprehension. This form of aphasia hampers the ability to grasp the meaning of spoken words, though it doesn’t affect one’s flow of speech. Wernicke’s aphasia cases often have people speaking in sentences that do not hang together, invented words that have no meaning, or using repeating words/phrases, all to the point of disrupting jargon totally. Reading and writing comprehension may also become impaired.

Mixed Non-Fluent Aphasia

This term is applied to patients who exhibits symptoms of Broca’s aphasia, with a slow or halting pace and often contains difficulty in creating language. However, unlike persons with Broca’s aphasia, they are limited in their comprehension of speech and are unable to not read or write beyond an elementary level.

Anomic Aphasia

Anomic aphasia is one of the milder forms of aphasia. While speech is typically fluent and produced with seeming ease, the person will be left with a persistent inability to supply the words for the very things they want to talk about, particularly the significant nouns and verbs. People with anomic aphasia usually have good comprehension; they can understand spoken messages and are able to read, and may find it easier to communicate using certain strategies to work around their word-finding difficulties.

Primary Progressive Aphasia

Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA) is a neurological syndrome in which one’s language capabilities become slowly and progressively impaired, usually caused by illnesses that cause deterioration of brain tissue such as Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia. PPA commonly begins as a subtle disorder of language, progressing to a nearly total inability to speak. The type or pattern of the language deficit may differ from patient to patient, where the initial language disturbance may be either fall under Broca’s or Wernicke’s Aphasia, before devolving even further to the maladies of the underlying disease, such as memory loss and brain atrophy.

People with primary progressive aphasia are fighting against a condition in which they will continue to lose their ability to speak, read, write, and/or understand what they hear. It is possible however individuals with PPA may benefit during the course of their illness by acquiring new communication strategies from speech-language pathologists.

How Do Diagnose Aphasia?

If you suspect your loved one has symptoms related to aphasia, you will have to refer to a doctor who can make an assessment of what kind of aphasia they may have. Most individuals will undergo a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scan to confirm the presence of a brain injury and to identify its precise location, and typically the person’s ability to understand and produce language, such as following commands, answering questions, naming objects, and carrying on a conversation will be tested as well. If required, a neuropsychologist or speech therapist may perform cognitive testing to check for more specific dysfunctions. This can give an indication of how likely recovery is, as well as helping to optimise any treatment plans.


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