Dementia refers to several degenerative disorders of the brain that affect cognition. Aphasia refers to difficulty expressing or understanding words due to brain damage.

Dementia is an umbrella term that refers to several degenerative conditions affecting the brain, including Alzheimer’s disease. Common symptoms across types of dementia include memory loss, confusion, and personality changes.

Aphasia involves a decreased ability to read, write, and speak. This is typically related to damage to one or more of the brain’s language centers. This damage can be the result of a stroke or traumatic injury.

Here’s a closer look at the relationship between dementia and aphasia.

Dementia symptoms can be very broad, affecting someone’s memory, personality, and behavior. Symptoms tend to come on gradually over time.

Aphasia involves specific difficulties with language. People with this condition have difficulty reading, writing, speaking, and understanding the words of others.

There are several types of aphasia. For example, conduction aphasia involves repeating words without understanding their meaning. Broca’s aphasia involves choppy speech, often with a limited vocabulary.

Symptoms of aphasia typically appear after a stroke or head trauma.

While dementia and aphasia are different conditions, dementia can cause a specific type of aphasia called primary progressive aphasia (PPA). Symptoms of PPA tend to develop more gradually than aphasia caused by a stroke or head trauma and get worse over time.

Early on, communication trouble might be minor and limited to occasionally forgetting the right word to use. As PPA progresses, it can cause a complete loss of communication abilities.

Any changes to cognitive function or communication abilities are important to bring to a healthcare professional to get a proper understanding of what’s happening.

They’ll start by gathering your medical history and asking about your symptoms. Depending on your symptoms, they may suggest cognitive testing. These tests will help your doctor get a picture of your current communication abilities or memory.

If you or someone else experiences communication difficulties following a head injury or suspected stroke, seek immediate medical care, if you haven’t already. Some types of aphasia improve with regular speech therapy, but quick treatment is key.

There’s no cure for dementia, but certain medications can offer some symptom relief. Occupational therapy can also help, especially in the earlier stages of dementia.

Read more about treatment approaches for dementia.

Aphasia treatment involves addressing the underlying cause, whether that’s a stroke or head injury. During the rehabilitation process, speech therapy can help to regain language skills. Occasionally, people with aphasia make a full recovery without intervention, but most people will experience lingering effects.

Dementia refers to a range of degenerative conditions affecting the brain, while aphasia involves damage to areas of the brain specifically related to language.

While dementia and aphasia are different conditions, PPA, a type of aphasia, can occur as a symptom of dementia.