What Is Aphasia?
Language is so much a part of our everyday lives that those of us who are fully capable of expressing ourselves however and whenever we wish may take it for granted. We think nothing of the ease with which we are able to start a conversation that could lead to a budding friendship. Telling someone that we have an urgent need is as simple as taking a breath and letting our words fly.
Now that we have taken a moment to appreciate how easy communication is for most of us, imagine you have the ability to speak, however the words you wish to say are not the words that come out of your mouth. Instead, you wind up saying words that are similar in subject to the word you intended to say. Or, the words that come out of your mouth sounds similar to the words you wanted to use but have entirely different meanings.
Having to wrestle with this verbal grab bag is the unfortunate reality for millions of individuals who deal with aphasia on a daily basis. According to the Mayo Clinic, Aphasia is defined as, “A condition that robs you of the ability to communicate. It can affect your ability to speak, write and understand language, both verbal and written”.
Causes of Aphasia
Those living with Aphasia are in some ways a prisoner of their own mind. Their intellect remains unchanged. They are as intelligent as ever. However, the areas of the brain that deal with speech and comprehension of language have become damaged due to a stroke or other event that resulted in neurological trauma.
Stroke is the most common cause of aphasia. Even though strokes are the most common cause, aphasia can arise from any injury or illness resulting in damage to the language processing centers of the brain. The symptoms of aphasia can go beyond difficulty with speech. Those with aphasia may struggle with all aspects of language including speech, reading, and writing.
Categories of Aphasia
There are many different types of aphasia. Each type falls into one of two categories, fluent or non-fluent aphasia. Fluent is also known as Wernicke’s or receptive Aphasia. This type of aphasia it is called fluent or receptive because the affected individual can speak fluently.
Even though their speech is fluent, the individual utterances are often made up of words that do not make sense to the other person in the conversation. They may also have a great deal of trouble reading and writing coherent sentences.
The second type of aphasia is known as nonfluent or expressive aphasia. This type of aphasia is so named because individuals with this diagnosis have difficulty producing speech; however their sentences are correct and understandable.
Those who have nonfluent aphasia can easily understand direct, straightforward sentences. But, they may have difficulty comprehending sentences that are complicated or less direct. With nonfluent aphasia, reading may be no issue. On the other hand, writing may be problematic.
Aphasia by the Numbers
- It’s hard to believe, in today’s hyper- connected, information rich society, 84.5% of the general public has never heard of Aphasia.
- Aphasia is a more prevalent neurological disability than cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, or Parkinson’s disease.
- Each year approximately 5 million individuals suffer a stroke and survive. Approximately one third of those who suffer a stroke will develop some form of aphasia.
- Approximately 80,000 new cases of aphasia are diagnosed each year.
- By 2020 the number of aphasia diagnosis is expected to climb to 180,000 individuals per year.
- 92% of people with aphasia say they are socially isolated.
- 70% of people diagnosed with aphasia will not be able to return to their job. They are also likely to miss out recreational activities they once enjoyed.
For more statistics on clinical and social aspects of aphasia visit National Aphasia Association