Aphasia is caused by damage to the parts of the brain that control language functions. It can make it difficult to read, write and say what you mean to say. Aphasia is most common in adults who have experienced a stroke but can also be caused by brain tumors, infections, injuries, and dementia. The type of aphasia you experience and its severity depends on the part of the brain that has been injured and how much damage has occurred.

The four main types of aphasia are:

  • Anomic aphasia – You have trouble using the correct word for objects, places or events.
  • Expressive aphasia – You know what you want to say, but you have trouble saying or writing what you mean.
  • Global aphasia – You can't speak, understand speech, read or write.
  • Receptive aphasia – You hear the voice or see the print, but you can't make sense of the words.

Aphasia causes

Aphasia is caused by a brain injury that impacts the portion of your brain that controls language functions. The brain injury can be the result of:

  • Stroke (the most common cause)
  • Brain tumor
  • Brain infection
  • Traumatic head injury or gunshot wound
  • Dementia

Aphasia symptoms

Symptoms of aphasia can vary from person to person. These variations stem from the different neural regions of the brain that have been damaged, and they include:

Verbal expression impairments

  • Difficulty finding words
  • Fluently stringing together nonsense words and real words, but leaving out a sufficient amount of relevant content
  • Making up words
  • Omitting smaller words like "the," "of," and "was"
  • Putting words in the wrong order
  • Speaking haltingly or with effort
  • Speaking in short, fragmented phrases
  • Speaking in single words
  • Substituting sounds and/or words

Auditory comprehension impairments

  • Difficulty understanding spoken words and sounds
  • Providing unreliable answers to yes/no questions
  • Failing to understanding complex grammar
  • Requiring extra time to understand spoken messages
  • Finding it very hard to follow rapid speech
  • Misinterpreting subtleties of language
  • Lacking awareness of errors

Reading comprehension impairments

  • Difficulty comprehending written material
  • Difficulty recognizing some words by sight
  • Inability to sound words out
  • Substituting an associated word for the intended word

Written language impairments

  • Difficulty writing or copying letters, words and sentences
  • Writing only single words
  • Substituting incorrect letters or words
  • Spelling or writing nonsense syllables or words
  • Writing run-on sentences that don't make sense
  • Writing sentences with incorrect grammar

Aphasia diagnosis

Our team of specialists provides thorough neurological evaluations to diagnose and determine the best treatment options for aphasia using the latest technology, including CT angiography and 3D angiography.

We work very closely with the departments of Neurosurgery, Interventional Neuroradiology, Neurology and Radiation Oncology, as well as the Neurocritical Care Center and Stroke Center, to ensure an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment for the best outcome.

Aphasia treatment

In some cases, individuals recover completely from aphasia without treatment. However, individualized language therapy is typically started as quickly as possible. This may include rehabilitation with a speech pathologist, as well as computer-aided therapy.

The multidisciplinary team at Northwell Health treats aphasia as well as a broad range of neurological conditions that can occur at any stage of life.


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