The word aphasia comes from the word aphasia, in ancient Greek, which means "speechlessness", Aphasia is an acquired impairment in the ability to speak, understand, read, or write. It results from a stroke or brain injury. A person with aphasia is able to perform intellectual functions like thinking, reasoning, and remembering, but has difficulty in using words for speaking, understanding, reading, or writing.The term "aphasia" implies a problem with one or more functions that are essential and specific to language function. It is not usually used when the language problem is a result of a more peripheral motor or sensory difficulty, such as paralysis affecting the speech muscles or a general hearing impairment.
Generally, if the symptoms of aphasia last longer than two or three months after a stroke, the patient is unlikely to recover completely. However, recovery is a slow process, and many patients continue to improve over a period of months and years after a stroke.
HOW COMMON IS APHASIA?
Aphasia affects an estimated 800,000 to 1,000,000 people annually in India. Since there is no single reporting agency for aphasia and stroke, this number is highly underestimated than the number of actual patients in India.
WHAT CAUSES APHASIA?
The most common cause of aphasia is interruption to the blood circulation to the brain. Aphasia can also result from injuries to the brain from brain tumors, traumatic brain injuries, and neurological diseases.
People with aphasia may experience any of the following behaviors due to an acquired brain injury, although some of these symptoms may be due to related or concomitant problems such as dysarthria or apraxia and not primarily due to aphasia. Aphasia symptoms can vary based on the location of damage in the brain. Signs and symptoms may or may not be present in individuals with aphasia and may vary in severity and level of disruption to communication. Often those with aphasia will try to hide their inability to name objects by using words like thing. So when asked to name a pencil they may say it is a thing used to write.
• inability to comprehend language
• inability to pronounce, not due to muscle paralysis or weakness
• inability to speak spontaneously
• inability to form words
• inability to name objects (anomia)
• poor enunciation
• excessive creation and use of personal neologisms
• inability to repeat a phrase
• persistent repetition of one syllable, word, or phrase (stereotypies)
• paraphasia (substituting letters, syllables or words)
• agrammatism (inability to speak in a grammatically correct fashion)
• dysprosody (alterations in inflexion, stress, and rhythm)
• incomplete sentences
• inability to read
• inability to write
• limited verbal output
• difficulty in naming
• speech disorder
• inability to follow or understand simple requests
Most acute aphasia patients can recover some or most skills by working with a speech-language pathologist. This rehabilitation can take two or more years and is most effective when begun quickly. After the onset of Aphasia, there is approximately a six-month period of spontaneous recovery. During this time, the brain is attempting to recover and repair the damaged neurons. Therapy for Aphasia during this time facilitates an even greater level of recovery than if no intervention was given at this time.
Improvement varies widely, depending on the aphasia's cause, type, and severity. Recovery also depends on the patient's age, health, motivation, handedness, and educational level.
There is no one treatment proven to be effective for all types of aphasias. The reason that there is no universal treatment for aphasia is because of the nature of the disorder and the various ways it is presented, as explained in the above sections. Aphasia is rarely exhibited identically, implying that treatment needs to be catered specifically to the individual. Studies have shown that, although there is no consistency on treatment methodology in literature, there is a strong indication that treatment in general has positive outcomes. Therapy for aphasia ranges from increasing functional communication to improving speech accuracy, depending on the person's severity, needs and support of family and friends.
A multi-disciplinary team, including doctors (often a physician is involved, but more likely a clinical neuropsychologist will head the treatment team), physiotherapist, occupational therapist, speech-language pathologist, and social worker, works together in treating aphasia. For the most part, treatment relies heavily on repetition and aims to address language performance by working on task-specific skills. The primary goal is to help the individual and those closest to them adjust to changes and limitations in communication.