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Pronounced: Ah-fay-gee-ah
En Español (Spanish Version)

Definition | Causes | Risk Factors | Symptoms | Diagnosis | Treatment | Prevention


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.


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
  • Other brain conditions


si1213_97870_1_Ischemic Stroke.jpg
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chances of developing aphasia include:

  • Age: Older adult
  • Family history of aphasia
  • Prior history of transient ischemic attacks (TIA)—also called mini-strokes


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
  • Problems understanding oral language:
    • Needing extra time to process language
    • Difficulty following very fast speech
    • Taking the literal meaning of a figure of speech
  • Problems reading
  • Problems writing


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

If you have a brain condition, you are probably already seeing a doctor who specializes in the nervous system. This doctor will most likely be able to recognize your aphasia. Some simple tests may be done. For example, you may be asked to follow commands, answer questions, name objects, and have a conversation. You may then be referred to a speech-language pathologist who will perform additional tests to assess your speech and language skills.

Images may be taken of structures inside your head. This can be done with:

Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:

Your brain activity may be measured. This can be done with electroencephalogram (EEG).

You may also be given the following specialized tests:

  • 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


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:

A speech-language specialist will 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.

A speech-language therapist will help you and your family learn how to best communicate with each other.

Psychological evaluation may also be helpful.


The most common cause of aphasia is stroke. To help reduce your chances of a stroke:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Limit dietary salt and fat
  • Stop smoking
  • If you drink, do so in moderation.
  • Maintain an healthy weight
  • Monitor and control your blood pressure
  • Consider taking low-dose aspirin, if your physician advises you do so.
  • Keep existing conditions, such as diabetes and high cholesterol, under control.
  • Seek immediate medical help if you experience symptoms of a stroke

Brain Injury Association of America


National Aphasia Association



Aphasia Institute


Stroke Recovery Association of BC



Aphasia. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: http://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/Aphasia/. Accessed May 21, 2013.

Aphasia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated September 2, 2012. Accessed May 21, 2013.

Aphasia. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders website. Available at: http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/voice/pages/aphasia.aspx. Updated October 2008. Accessed May 21, 2013.

Last reviewed May 2013 by Rimas Lukas, MD; Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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