Global aphasia is a disorder caused by damage to the parts of your brain that control language.

A person with global aphasia may only be able to produce and understand a handful of words. Often, they can’t read or write.

The most common causes of global aphasia are:

People with global aphasia may not have any other issues outside of language. They often use facial expressions, gestures, and changing their tone of voice to communicate.

In this article, we’ll look at the causes of global aphasia, its usual symptoms, and treatment options.

What is transient global aphasia?

Transient global aphasia is a temporary form of global aphasia.

Migraine attacks, seizures, or transient ischemic attacks (TIA) can cause transient global aphasia.

A TIA is often referred to as a ministroke. It’s a temporary blockage of blood in your brain that doesn’t cause permanent brain damage. Having a TIA is a warning sign of a future stroke.

Damage to the language processing centers in the left hemisphere of your brain, including Wernicke’s and Broca’s areas, can cause global aphasia. These two areas are critical for the production and understanding of language.

The following are the most common causes of brain damage that lead to global aphasia.


Stroke is the most common cause of aphasia. A blockage of blood flow to the brain causes a stroke. If the stroke occurs in your left hemisphere, it can cause permanent damage to your language processing centers due to a lack of oxygen.


A brain tumor in your left hemisphere can also cause global aphasia. As the tumor grows, it damages the cells around it.

As many as 30 to 50 percent of people with brain tumors experience some type of aphasia. If the tumor is slow-growing, your brain may adapt and move your language processing to a different part of your brain.


Bacteria usually cause a brain infection, but fungi and viruses can also cause an infection. Infections can lead to aphasia if they result in damage to your left hemisphere.


A head injury can damage the parts of your brain that control language. Head injury often results from trauma, like accidents or sports injury.

Global aphasia is the most severe form of aphasia. It can cause symptoms affecting all aspects of language ability.

People with global aphasia have the inability or extreme difficulty of reading, writing, understanding speech, and speaking.

Some people with global aphasia can answer basic yes or no questions. They may also be able to say automatic phrases, such as “Excuse me.” Other forms of communication include using facial expressions, gestures, and changing tone of voice.

These are some of the ways a person with global aphasia may have trouble communicating.


  • inability to speak
  • trouble speaking and repeating speech
  • speaking in sentences that aren’t understandable
  • making grammatical mistakes

Language comprehension

  • trouble understanding others
  • not correctly answering yes or no questions
  • trouble understanding fast speech
  • needing longer than normal to understand spoken text


  • misspelling words
  • misusing grammar
  • using incorrect words


  • problems understanding written text
  • inability to sound out words
  • inability to understand figurative language

People with global aphasia may have problems with their relationships, jobs, and social life because they have trouble understanding other people.

They may develop depression or feel isolated if they don’t have support and regular social interaction.

Not being able to read or write also limits the career choices of people with global aphasia.

However, treatments are available, and symptoms often do improve. Moreover, assistive devices are improving that allow people to communicate.

If your doctor suspects global aphasia, they’ll likely use a series of tests to confirm the diagnosis. These tests may include:

  • physical exam
  • neurological exam
  • MRI

They’ll also likely use tests to assess your language ability. These tests may include:

  • repeating the name of common objects
  • asking yes and no questions
  • having you repeat words

These tests can also help rule out other similar disorders, including:

Milder forms of aphasia, such as Broca’s aphasia or Wernicke’s aphasia, may have similar but milder symptoms than global aphasia.

Treatment of global aphasia depends on its severity. Recovery may be slower and more difficult than other types of aphasia, but it’s possible.

In cases of transient global aphasia, people may recover without treatment.

Treatment options for global aphasia fit into one of two categories:

  • Impairment-based strategies directly help you improve language skills.
  • Communication-based strategies involve helping you communicate better in real-world situations.

Speech therapy

The most common treatment option for global aphasia is speech therapy. There are different techniques speech therapists use to help you improve your language ability.

Along with speech activities, therapists may also use computer programs to aid the rehab process.

The goals of speech therapy include:

  • restoring speech
  • communicating to the best of your ability
  • looking for alternative communication methods
  • providing people with global aphasia and caregivers with information about the condition

Visual action therapy

Visual action therapy is often used when verbal treatments may be too advanced at the moment. It doesn’t use language at all. Visual action therapy teaches people how to use gestures to communicate.

Noninvasive brain stimulation

Noninvasive brain stimulation is a relatively new area of treatment for aphasia.

It uses techniques like transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), along with speech-language therapy, to help people recover language ability.

Recovering from global aphasia is a slow process. Although it’s rare to regain full language abilities, many people make significant improvements with proper treatment.

The good news is symptoms of aphasia may continue to improve for years after the aphasia first develops.

The recovery of global aphasia depends on the severity of brain damage and the age of the person. People generally regain language comprehension ability quicker than other language skills.

Global aphasia is the most severe type of aphasia. It affects all language skills. Recovering from global aphasia is a slow process, but significant improvements are possible with proper treatment.

Undergoing speech therapy and other treatment options can help maximize the ability to communicate.

If you know somebody who has global aphasia, there are a few steps you can take to help them communicate:

  • Help them find community events where they can be involved.
  • Participate in their therapy sessions.
  • Use shorter sentences when communicating.
  • Use gestures to make your meaning more clear.