A stroke can damage the areas of the brain that deal with language processing. Following a stroke, someone may have aphasia, which affects their ability to communicate and speak.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke. It is also the fifth-highest cause of death in the U.S.

An ischemic stroke occurs when clots in blood vessels block the blood flow to the brain. A hemorrhagic stroke happens when a blood vessel in the brain leaks or bursts, putting too much pressure on brain cells.

Both types of stroke can cause parts of the brain to die or become damaged, which may lead to long-term disability or death. A stroke that has occurred in the areas of the brain that control speech and language may cause aphasia.

This article defines and explores aphasia, including the different types and how doctors treat the condition. In addition, it provides tips for communicating with a person with aphasia and tips to help them communicate with others.

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The American Stroke Association (ASA) advises that a stroke that occurs in parts of the brain that control speech and language may result in aphasia. This condition affects someone’s ability to speak, write, listen, and read.

Health experts explain that aphasia may happen suddenly due to a stroke or head injury. However, sometimes the condition occurs slowly due to a brain tumor or a progressive neurological disorder such as Alzheimer’s disease.

The ASA notes that the left side of the brain is responsible for processing language in most people. A person can have different types of aphasia depending on which area of the brain is damaged.

Learn more about communication disorders.

There are two broad categories of aphasia: fluent and nonfluent. Within these groups, there are several types of aphasia. There are other types of the condition in addition to those below.

Wernicke’s aphasia

Wernicke’s aphasia results from damage to the brain’s temporal lobe. This is a type of fluent aphasia that may cause the following problems with speech and language:

  • saying many words that do not make sense
  • using the wrong words or made-up words
  • stringing together meaningless words that sound like a sentence but do not make sense

Broca’s aphasia

Broca’s aphasia is the most common nonfluent type of aphasia, affecting the brain’s frontal lobe. Features of this type of aphasia include:

  • having difficulty understanding sentences
  • leaving out small words such as “is” or “the”
  • saying something that does not resemble a sentence
  • having difficulty forming complete sentences
  • making mistakes when following directions such as “left, right, under, and after”
  • using a word that is similar to but not the exact word, for example, saying “car” instead of “truck”

Global aphasia

A stroke that damages an extensive portion of the front and back regions of the brain’s left hemisphere may result in global aphasia. People with global aphasia may have difficulty forming and understanding words and sentences. They may be extremely limited in their ability to speak or understand language.

A 2021 review indicates that behavioral speech and language therapy (SLT) is the primary treatment for aphasia following a stroke. However, studies have not yet determined the optimal timings for SLT or which therapy works best for an individual following a stroke.

The review notes that SLT may be individual or as part of a group. Health professionals may also deliver therapy remotely or by using a computer.

The review’s authors also explain that medications have not been shown to significantly improve aphasia without SLT. Additionally, noninvasive brain stimulation is another potential approach to therapy that may help improve aphasia. However, further research may be necessary to confirm its efficacy, particularly in combination with SLT.

Experts advise that following a brain injury, such as a stroke, significant changes occur in a person’s brain, which help it recover. Therefore, people with aphasia may see dramatic improvements in their language ability in the first few months following a stroke, even without treatment. However, some level of aphasia remains in many cases, and individuals still require SLT.

Learn more about recovering communication skills after a stroke.

The following are tips that may help family and friends communicate with someone with aphasia:

  • Use short, uncomplicated sentences but maintain a natural conversational manner appropriate for an adult.
  • Repeat or write down key words to clarify meaning if necessary.
  • Allow the person plenty of time to talk and avoid correcting their speech.
  • Minimize distractions such as a loud TV or radio.
  • Encourage any type of communication, such as gesture, pointing, speech, or drawing.
  • Ask for and value the opinion of someone with aphasia.
  • Participate in group therapy sessions if possible.

The following strategies may help someone with aphasia communicate:

  • Take time and be patient with yourself.
  • Let people know what works best.
  • Use assistive devices such as photos, pens, paper, or other tools.

Additionally, someone with aphasia and their family may benefit from participating in stroke support groups to build confidence and help them adjust to life changes.

Aphasia is a condition that may occur due to a stroke and affect someone’s ability to speak and process language. There are different types of aphasia, with specific characteristics showing in a person’s communication.

Someone with aphasia may have difficulty understanding speech and mix their words up. As a result, they may speak few words or become frustrated with themselves. Aphasia symptoms may improve within the first few months following a stroke, but people with aphasia often still require SLT.

Family members and friends may communicate effectively with a person with aphasia by minimizing distractions, letting them take their time, or using gestures and drawings. In addition, individuals can consult a doctor to determine what support is available and learn further helpful tips.