About two million Americans live with aphasia, but many of us don’t know what it is. So what is aphasia? Aphasia is the inability to comprehend or formulate language. Aphasia is usually caused by a neurological insult, such as a stroke, brain injury, or other neurogenerative diseases, such as dementia. While aphasia impacts communication, it is not uncommon for a person’s intellectual and cognitive abilities to remain intact.
There are three main categories of aphasia: Broca’s aphasia, Wernicke’s aphasia, and global aphasia.
Broca’s Aphasia (Expressive Aphasia)
Broca’s aphasia is also sometimes referred to as expressive aphasia. This is because a person living with Broca’s aphasia will struggle to express themselves. They may speak with just a few words, rather than full sentences. Finding the right word can be difficult. They may also experience difficulty with writing. Broca’s aphasia results from damage to the frontal lobe of the brain.
Wernicke’s Aphasia (Receptive Aphasia)
Wernicke’s aphasia is generally the opposite of Broca’s aphasia. It is often called receptive aphasia, as comprehension is the area of communication most affected by this type of aphasia. A person living with Wernicke’s aphasia may speak well, but what they say may not always make sense. Often times, they do not realize they aren’t making sense. These individuals will also commonly struggle with reading and writing. Damage to the temporal part of the brain is generally the cause of Wernicke’s aphasia.
The most severe form of aphasia is global aphasia. With global aphasia, a person struggles with both expression and comprehension. They will speak very few words, understand little of what they hear, and be unable to read or write. People living with global aphasia often have damage in both the frontal lobe and the temporal part of the brain.
Diagnosing and Treating Aphasia
Most often, a person’s physician identifies difficulty with language first. The physician then refers them to a speech-language pathologist. The speech-language pathologist will perform a comprehensive examination to determine the extent of the impairment. Treatment varies depending on several factors, including what region of the brain is damaged and the patient’s individual needs. The sooner treatment begins, the more effective it is.
Jessica Garcia is a speech-language pathologist at Laredo Specialty Hospital and Laredo Rehabilitation Hospital in Laredo, TX. Jessica holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Texas State University and a master of science in Speech-Language Pathology from Texas A&M Kingsville. She is also certified in VitalStim®, a therapy designed to treat dysphagia. Jessica is passionate about her profession because of the difference she is able to make in the everyday lives of patients throughout their lifespan.