Aphasia: What’s The Word Again?

By Knikkolette Church


What’s that word?


Like many people I know, my memory is not what it used to be, and the ability to choose that word – you know – the one on the tip of your tongue? Well – that’s been even more problematic. Recently, one of the memory problems many people are plagued with startled me. I’ve had problems thinking of the correct word to use for several years… sometimes I will SAY an incorrect word (my brain and my mouth don’t seem to communicate well), but I’ve always been able to TYPE the word I meant if I KNEW which word I wanted to use…. That is until the other day. I was thinking of the word “search” and had every intention of typing the word “search”, but ended up typing the word “shert”. You may think it was just a typographic error. Not so – when I’m typing something wrong – I can see I’m typing it incorrectly as I type so I backspace and retype until it’s correct. I typed the word “shert” for the word “search” three times.


What’s it called?


There is a term for this inability to retrieve the correct word from your mind and it’s called Aphasia. There are different types of Aphasia including expressive aphasia, receptive aphasia, conduction aphasia, anomic aphasia, global aphasia and primary progressive aphasias. They are generally classified as either non-fluent or fluent. Specific symptoms can vary greatly; however the commonly shared symptom is an impaired ability to use language. The severity of aphasia symptoms can range from very mild to very severe. When there is almost total impairment of all the language modalities (i.e., speaking, writing, reading, listening) the condition is referred to as global aphasia.


The most frequent cause of aphasia is a stroke (but, one can have a stroke without acquiring aphasia). It can also result from head injury, cerebral tumor or other neurological causes. Consequently, the onset is usually sudden, although rare cases of progressive aphasia in adults and childhood / developmental aphasia have been documented.


Aphasia is actually more prevalent than Parkinson’s disease. It has been estimated that one million Americans or 1 in 250 people have acquired aphasia. About 2/3 of these are the result of strokes and 1/3 are head injured persons.


Can you recover?


Approximately half of those who initially show symptoms of aphasia recover completely within the first few hours or days. This is known as transient aphasia. If the symptoms of aphasia persist beyond the first 2-3 months after a stroke, a complete recovery is unlikely. Increased functioning is usually achieved through spontaneous recovery and speech therapy. Recovery is a slow process that usually requires a minimum of a year of treatment including helping the individual and family understand and adjust to long term deficits.


If you think you have Aphasia, definitely go to your doctor and be tested – I know I am! To learn more about Aphasia, visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aphasia or http://www.webmd.com/brain/aphasia-causes-symptoms-types-treatments


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