Suddenly having difficulty speaking or understanding language is known as aphasia. Whether it's affecting you, or someone you know, it can be scary as well as frustrating. This communication disorder is usually a symptom of an underlying issue. Diagnosing and addressing that issue can help restore communication. People with aphasia may have difficult using or understanding language, including while speaking, writing, or reading.
Diagnosing & Treating Aphasia at UVA Health
Diagnosing aphasia itself is usually pretty simple. Your provider will do an assessment that may include asking you to follow commands, have a conversation, name objects in the room, or answer questions. A speech-language pathologist may assess your speech and language skills.
Once it's established that you're struggling to communicate, your provider will look for an underlying cause.
Depending on what they see, your provider will order additional tests.
Your doctor may take images of structures inside your head. This can be done with:
- MRI scan
- CT scan
Your doctor may also test your bodily fluids and measure your brain activity with electroencephalogram (EEG).
You may also need specialized tests that may include:
- Evaluation of speech
- Assessment of the strength and coordination of the speech muscles
- Vocabulary and grammar tests
- Comprehension tests
- Reading and writing tests
- Swallowing tests
- Neuropsychological tests
Treatment will focus on:
- Treating the underlying cause
- Handling symptoms
A speech-language specialist can help you:
- Use your remaining communication abilities
- Restore lost abilities
- Learn to compensate for language problems
- Learn other methods of communicating
This therapy may take place in both individual and group settings.
A speech-language therapist can help you and your family learn how to best communicate with each other. A psychological evaluation may also be helpful.
What Causes Aphasia?
Aphasia is caused by an injury to parts of the brain that are involved with language. The injury may be the result of:
- Stroke, which is the most common cause
- Severe blow to the head
- Gunshot wound
- Other traumatic head injury
- Brain tumor
- Brain infection
- Neurodegenerative disorders
Factors that may increase your chances of developing aphasia include:
- Age: Older adult
- Family history of aphasia
- Prior history of transient ischemic attacks (TIA)
Aphasia is a symptom of an underlying problem. It may include:
- Speaking in short, fragmented phrases
- Putting words in the wrong order
- Using incorrect grammar
- Switching sounds or words
- Speaking in nonsense
- Anomia (word-finding problems)
- Needing extra time to process language
- Difficulty following very fast speech
- Taking the literal meaning of a figure of speech
- Not being able to read
- Being unable to write
- Not able to follow simple commands
If you or someone you know is suffering from aphasia, getting a quick diagnosis and treatment plan can help prevent the problem from progressing.