Aphasia is a condition that affects language. It occurs when parts of the brain involved with language and communication are damaged.

People who have aphasia can have trouble with things like speaking, reading, or listening.

Aphasia often comes on suddenly, due to something like a head injury or stroke. It may also develop slowly over time from things like a tumor or a degenerative neurological condition.

Research estimates about 1 million people in the United States are living with aphasia.

There are two different categories of aphasia and different conditions associated with each type. Read on to discover more about the different types of aphasia.

Aphasia is broken down into two categories:

  • Nonfluent aphasia. Speech is difficult or halting, and some words may be absent. However, a listener can still understand what the speaker is trying to say.
  • Fluent aphasia. Speech flows more easily, but the content of the message lacks meaning.

In the chart below, we’ll break down the different types of aphasia.

NonfluentBroca’s aphasiaYou know what you want to say and can understand others. However, speech is difficult and requires great effort. Short phrases are often used, such as “Want food.” Some weakness or paralysis of the limbs on one side of the body may also be present.
Nonfluentglobal aphasiaThis is the most severe aphasia. You can’t produce and sometimes can’t understand language. However, you’ll still have normal cognitive ability in areas not related to language and communication.
Nonfluenttranscortical motor aphasiaYou can understand language but can’t communicate fluently. You may use short phrases, have a delay in response time, and frequently repeat things.
Fluent Wernicke’s aphasiaYou can speak in long sentences. However, these sentences have no obvious meaning and can contain unnecessary or even made up words. Trouble with understanding language and with repeating things is also present.
Fluent conduction aphasiaYou can still speak fluently and can understand language but have trouble with repetition and finding words.
Fluentanomic aphasia This is a more mild aphasia. Your speech is fluent and you can understand others. However, you’ll often use vague or filler words. You may often feel like a word is on the tip of your tongue and may use other words to help describe the word you’re looking for.
Fluenttranscortical sensory aphasiaYou have trouble comprehending language, although you can communicate fluently. Like Wernicke’s aphasia, your sentences may have no obvious meaning. But unlike Wernicke’s aphasia, you’re able to repeat things, although echolalia may occur in some cases.

Primary progressive aphasia (PPA)

PPA is actually a form of dementia. It happens when the areas of the brain associated with communication and language begin to shrink, or atrophy.

People with PPA gradually lose the ability to communicate and understand language. Specific symptoms can depend on which parts of the brain are affected.

In cases where mild damage has occurred, you may gradually recover your language and communication capabilities over time. However, in some cases, the aphasia may remain.

Speech-language therapy is the mainstay treatment for aphasia. The aims of this type of therapy are to:

  • enhance your ability to communicate to the best of your ability
  • aid in restoring as much of your speech and language capability as possible
  • teach different communication strategies, such as through gestures, pictures, or assistive technology

Therapy will typically begin shortly after damage to the brain has occurred and is tailored to your individual needs. In some cases, it can also be performed in a group setting.

The effectiveness of speech-language therapy depends on several factors. These include:

  • area of the brain that was damaged
  • severity of the damage
  • your age and overall health

Medication isn’t typically effective in treating aphasia. However, some types of drugs, such as piracetam and memantine, are currently being studied to assess their efficacy in treating aphasia. More research is needed.

Having a condition that affects speech and language can be difficult. It can sometimes be frustrating or exhausting to have trouble communicating effectively.

However, you can utilize various strategies to help. Consider following some of the tips below to help cope with aphasia:

  • Plan to have a pencil and paper with you at all times. This way, you’ll be able to write or draw something to help you communicate.
  • If you can’t find the word you’re looking for, use gestures, drawings, or technology to get your point across. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different modes of communication. Assistive devices are continually improving.
  • Practice speech and communication. You can do this through reading out loud or by recruiting a friend or family member to help you practice having a conversation.
  • Carry a card in your wallet that lets people know you have aphasia and explains what it is.
  • Try to stay active and social. Consider joining a club, or start a hobby. This can help you build confidence and practice the skills you’ve learned in speech-language therapy.
  • Consider joining a support group. Sometimes sharing with others who are going through a similar experience can be helpful.
  • Keep family members and loved ones involved. Be sure to let them know how they can help.
  • During doctor visits, consider using a doll or drawing of a person to communicate with your healthcare providers when you want to describe symptoms.

What if you’re a friend or family member of someone who has aphasia? Are there things you can do to help? Try implementing some of the suggestions below:

  • Always involve them in conversations, speaking to them in a manner that’s appropriate for an adult.
  • Be encouraging of any form of communication, whether it’s through speech, gesture, or another medium.
  • Aim to use more simple language, shorter sentences, and a slower pace.
  • Try to ask yes or no questions as opposed to open-ended questions.
  • Let them have plenty of time to respond to you.
  • Avoid correcting any errors or finishing their sentences.
  • Be prepared to clarify or write down words if they need you to.
  • Don’t hesitate to use drawings, photos, or gestures to help with understanding.
  • Eliminate potential distractions in the background, such as music or the TV.
  • Plan to attend their speech-language therapy sessions, if possible.

Aphasia is a condition that affects language and communication. It results from damage to the areas of the brain that are important for these skills. Things like head injuries, stroke, or a tumor can all cause aphasia.

People with aphasia can have trouble speaking, reading, or understanding others. There are two different categories of aphasia (nonfluent and fluent), and each has several types associated with it.

The treatment of aphasia involves speech-language therapy, which helps develop improved communication. Support from friends, family, or a support group can also greatly help someone with aphasia on their road to recovery.