What is Aphasia? - Definition & Treatment

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Imagine not being able to talk, or write, or understand what someone else is saying. Scary, right? Well that's what some people endure if they have a problem called aphasia. Find out what this is, isn't, and how it may be treated.

What is Aphasia?

Our world has always run on communication, but even more so today. Imagine waking up one day and being unable to read what your friend texted you, write a letter, or scream for help. That's really depressing and scary, no? Well, unfortunately for some people this is a real problem.

It's called aphasia, a condition that is characterized by a person's inability, or great difficulty, communicating through verbal or written words. This includes speaking, reading, and writing. It even includes recognizing the name of something like a car or understanding what someone else just said.

What Aphasia Is and Isn't

What is language and communication? This isn't a sociology lesson so we won't get into this in detail, but from the medical perspective, language can be simplified to an ability to use one's lexicon in order to understand the meaning of words, when to use them properly, and how to put them together in a coherent fashion.

For most of us, this ability resides in the left side of the brain. This means that damage to this side of the brain from a stroke, head injury, brain tumor, infection (such as due to the herpes virus), or a disorder like Alzheimer's, can damage this side of the brain and lead to aphasia.

Consequently, aphasia is an acquired disorder of language, meaning you aren't born with it. So, victims of this disease were fine, but something damaged the brain and led to an inability to properly communication. Aphasia also excludes:

  • Disorders of communication stemming from thought disorders, like schizophrenia.
  • Disorders of communication stemming purely from motor disorders, meaning that the person cannot use the muscles and other structures involved in speech.
  • Developmental or learning speech and language disorders, like dyslexia.

Aphasia Treatment

To treat aphasia properly, the underlying cause of it must be identified so it can be treated properly, and any further damage can be stopped. So, if there is a bacterial infection in the brain that has led to this, then drugs that kill bacteria (antibiotics) need to be used. If there is a brain tumor that's tied to the damage, the tumor may need to be removed surgically or killed via radiation therapy.

In order to regain as much language function as possible, speech therapy should be started as soon as possible. Speech and language therapy are the most important treatment options for people who have aphasia, other than directly treating the cause of aphasia.

People may also need to learn how to use alternate ways to communicating if they cannot do so normally. For instance, they may need to learn sign language if they can no longer speak. Psychological support is sometimes very helpful, as many people may become depressed after losing their ability to communicate with the same fluidity they once possessed.

Medication that has been used largely on a currently experimental basis has shown some promise in treating aphasia, but more research needs to be performed to see if such medications are truly safe and effective.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account