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What Is Aphasia?

Aphasia is a language disorder caused by damage in a specific area of the brain that controls language expression and comprehension. It leaves a person unable to communicate effectively with others.

Approximately one million people in the United States have aphasia, with about 80,000 cases diagnosed each year. Both genders are affected equally, and most people with aphasia are in middle to old age.

There are many types of aphasia, which depend upon which area of the language-dominant side of the brain is affected and the extent of the damage. Types of aphasia include:

  • Broca’s aphasia — includes damage to the front portion of the language-dominant side of the brain. People with Broca’s may eliminate the articles "and" and "the" from their language, and speak in short, but meaningful, sentences. They usually can understand some speech of others.
  • Wernicke's aphasia — includes damage to the back portion of the language-dominant side of the brain. People with Wernicke’s may speak in long confusing sentences, add unnecessary words, or create new words. They usually have difficulty understanding the speech of others.
  • Global aphasia — includes damage to a large portion of the language-dominant side of the brain. People with global aphasia have difficulties with speaking or comprehending language.
  • Speak in short, confusing, or incomplete sentences
  • Substitute one word for another or one sound for another
  • Speak unrecognizable words
  • Have difficulty finding words
  • Not understand other people's conversation
  • Not understand what they read
  • Write sentences that don't make sense

Aphasia is caused by damage to the language-dominant side of the brain, usually the left side, and may be brought on by:

  • stroke
  • head injury
  • brain tumor

It is currently unknown if aphasia causes the complete loss of language structure, or if it causes difficulties in how language is accessed and used.

A speech-language pathologist will assess aphasia by conducting language tests. Making a diagnosis may also include the use of imaging procedures, such as:

UR Medicine's Treatments for Aphasia

Our speech-language pathologists at UR Medicine specialize in treating aphasia. Following evaluations, patients will work with a speech-language pathologist to develop an individualized therapy plan together.

 Specific treatment for aphasia will be determined by your physician based on:

  • Age, overall health, and medical history
  • Severity of the condition
  • Tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

The goal of treatment is to improve your ability to communicate through methods that may include:

  • Speech-language therapy
  • Non-verbal communication therapies, such as computers or pictures
  • Group therapy with family members

What Sets Us Apart?

UR Medicine is a world-class medical center and leading academic institution. Our providers offer outstanding patient-centered care and conduct breakthrough research in neurology. UR Medicine provides the widest range of neurosurgery and neuromedicine care in the region.

Our speech pathologists are licensed by the New York State Department of Education and hold Certificates of Clinical Competence for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), in addition to postgraduate training and certifications in several clinical subspecialties. Our Speech-Language Pathologists, who have specialty training and expertise in voice disorders, assessment, and treatment, will complete a personalized assessment of your voice.

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