Aphasia is a communication disorder. People with aphasia may have difficulty with the expression and/or understanding of language, as well as reading and writing.

Causes of 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)

Common Symptoms 

Aphasia is a symptom of an underlying problem. It may include:

Difficulty speaking:

  • 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

Problems understanding oral language:

  • Problems reading
  • Problems writing

Diagnosing Aphasia

Simple tests can diagnose aphasia, including ones that ask you to follow commands, answer questions, name objects and have a conversation. A speech-language pathologist may assess your speech and language skills.

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

Treating Aphasia

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment will focus on:

  • Treating the underlying cause of aphasia
  • Aphasia symptoms

Options for treating aphasia itself include:

Speech-Language Therapy

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.

Family Counseling

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.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.