Dec 19, 2009 Sara E. LewisA sudden stoke or traumatic brain injury can be life-altering for many reasons. One of the most frustrating can be the loss of aspects of the ability to communicate with others, called aphasia.
Although the loss usually occurs suddenly, aphasia may also progress slowly as a result of brain tumor, dementia or infection. Aphasia may occur at the same time as speech disorders related to coordination and voluntary muscle movement.
It is estimated that about one million people currently have aphasia. The majority of cases result from stroke, usually when a fragment from a blood clot breaks off and travels to the brain. About one-third of people with severe TBI experience aphasia.
How is Aphasia Diagnosed?
When the language centers of the brain are damaged due to the lack of blood and death of brain cells (stroke) or a blow to the head (TBI), aphasia expresses itself as lack of ability to say what one is thinking and inability to recognize or write words. Neurologists and speech therapists gain information about which area of the brain was injured by the type of language mistakes made or the patient’s awareness of language mistakes. They examine aspects of the patient’s ability to speak, understand, and converse.
How Should Caregivers Treat Stoke or TBI Patients with Aphasia?
The most effective treatment is delivered early in the recovery process. Beyond this, caregivers should help the patient use the language skills that he or she still has more effectively. Therapy includes training a person to compensate for skills that are lacking and developing other means of communicating, as with facial expressions or hand movements.