When Speaking Is A Struggle

Coming up with words and forming sentences can be difficult — or even painfully impossible — for some stroke victims. So can writing or comprehending the words coming out of a loved one's mouth.

Those who have impaired ability to use or understand words are afflicted with aphasia.

Aphasia (uh-fay'-shuh) can be mild and affect a single aspect of language, such as the ability to recall names — or it can be severe, making any form of communication almost impossible. More commonly, multiple aspects of communication are impaired, but some means of information exchange remain.

What Causes Aphasia?

Usually, aphasia is caused by a brain-injuring stroke, but it can also be caused by brain tumors or head injuries. Strokes can cause aphasia when blood flow through the brain is disrupted and nerves in the brain are damaged.

Aphasia comes on suddenly due to head trauma, but in rare cases it can develop gradually. This is called primary progressive aphasia.

Language impairment occurs in more than a third of people who survive a stroke on the left side of their brain, according to WebMD. Up to 60 percent of those who suffer aphasia still have language impairments more than six months after a stroke. This is known as chronic aphasia.

Can You Prevent An Aphasia-Causing Stroke?

Up to 80 percent of all strokes are preventable, according to the National Stroke Association. The basics of preventing a stroke are similar to the steps to having a healthy heart — including exercising regularly, not smoking, keeping cholesterol and blood pressure down and keeping a diet low in sodium and fat.

A stroke can happen at any stage of life, even in fetuses and children, but it becomes more likely with age. Stroke occurs most often in people over age 65.

Who Has Aphasia?

Anyone can get aphasia, but more who suffer it are middle-aged or older. About 80,000 individuals acquire aphasia annually, according to the National Institute on Deafness and other Communications Disorders.

To Learn More About Aphasia:

• Click here for resources from the National Aphasia Association.
• Learn more about the rehabilitation from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
• The National Stroke Association has resources on strokes and prevention. Click here or call 1-800-STROKES.
• See information from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
• Click here for the Academy of Aphasia, a group of researchers who study the language problems of people who have neurological diseases.