Aphasia is a language disorder that affects the way you communicate. It occurs when damage is done to parts of the brain that control language and speech.
Some people recover from aphasia on their own relatively quickly without treatment. Others may need treatment for many years before they can improve their communication.
Here's what you need to know about recovering from aphasia and how to contact Lompoc Valley Medical Center when you're ready to learn more about your available treatment options.
What Causes Aphasia?
The most common cause of aphasia is a stroke. A stroke can block or rupture a blood vessel in the brain. This disrupts blood flow to the brain and can destroy cells that control speech and language.
The brain damage that causes aphasia can also occur on behalf of an accident or injury. Examples include a strong blow to the head during a car accident or when playing sports. Brain damage may also be caused by a tumor or infection. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says that gunshot wounds and progressive neurological disorders like Alzheimer's can cause aphasia.
What Is the Average Aphasia Recovery Rate?
Recovery from aphasia is usually dependent on a variety of factors. Aphasia affects each person differently. Some may recover more quickly than others, while some may not recover at all.
Factors that play a role in recovery from aphasia include:
- The severity of brain damage.
- The parts of the brain that were damaged.
- The person's age.
- The person's overall health status.
- Communication problems other than aphasia.
- The person's motivation to recover from aphasia.
- The person's mental well-being.
Lots of clinical studies have evaluated the recovery rate for aphasia.
In a 2013 study published in the Journal of Stroke & Cerebrovascular Diseases, researchers looked at how 669 stroke patients were able to recover from aphasia. They found that 38% of the 166 patients alive when they were discharged experienced full recovery from aphasia. Of the 102 patients seen at six months, 74% experienced full recovery from aphasia. The researchers said recovery from aphasia was most common among patients with smaller strokes.
In another study published in a 2019 issue of the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, researchers look at aphasia recovery patterns in the first two weeks after a stroke. They found that 95% of patients with mild aphasia had stable language function after two weeks. Patients with moderate to severe aphasia achieved regular function at six and 10 weeks.
Suppose you or a loved one has aphasia. In that case, your doctors may be able to tell you whether full recovery is possible based on their experience with previous patients.
What Are the Best Treatments For Aphasia?
The goal of aphasia treatment is to improve your ability to communicate. This may involve focusing on your remaining language abilities and restoring the lost abilities. It could also require you to learn new ways to communicate. For example, you could learn to make certain gestures or draw pictures that help you communicate effectively with others.
Common treatments for aphasia include:
- Speech and language therapy. Individual and group therapy can strengthen and improve your language and communication skills.
- Medications. Drugs may improve blood flow to the brain or to rebalance certain brain chemicals.
- Participation in social activities. Activities like book clubs and drama clubs can help improve your communication skills. They can also help you increase your confidence and self-esteem.
- Support groups. These groups allow people with aphasia to bond and share useful coping methods.
Your doctor can work with you to find the best treatments for aphasia based on its severity and the types of treatments you may prefer over others.
What Are Signs Of Recovery From Aphasia?
Any amount of recovery from aphasia is positive and can make a huge difference in your quality of life. Your healthcare team will inform you of any progress and changes in your symptoms if they notice them before you do. Staying motivated and having a positive attitude can go a long way in recovery.
Here are common signs of recovery from aphasia:
- Speaking in longer sentences.
- Speaking at a faster pace.
- Saying a higher number of things that make sense to others.
- Using the correct words and sounds.
- Using real words, as opposed to words that are jumbled or that sound strange to others.
- Finding the right words to say.
- Being able to use more complex, complicated words.
- Being able to follow conversations better.
- Being able to correctly interpret words and speech.
- Being able to understand things you are reading.
- Being able to write sentences that make sense.
- Being able to correctly repeat what someone else says.
- Having greater awareness of what you are saying and recognizing mistakes.
- Feeling more confident in social situations.
What Are Good Ways To Cope With Aphasia?
If total recovery is possible, some people may need several months or years to fully recover from aphasia. While recovering from aphasia, it helps to know healthy, effective coping methods. Knowing how to cope with your condition can help you stay optimistic about it and continue to work toward improving your symptoms.
Ask your doctor about support groups for people with aphasia or who are recovering from a stroke. These support groups can be beneficial—especially if you recently suffered a stroke or brain damage. You can learn unique tips and tricks for coping with aphasia.
Here are some valuable ways to cope with aphasia:
- Carry a card that explains that you have aphasia. You can also include the definition of aphasia for people who don't know what it is. Then, you can show the cards to people you meet for the first time or to people you need to communicate with.
- Carry your identification with you at all times, along with the contact information of your loved ones. This can be helpful in situations where people may be confused about your condition or have difficulty communicating with you. Your loved ones can come to your aid and sort things out if needed.
- Carry a small notebook and pen or pencil with you at all times. If you experience difficulty speaking or others have difficulty understanding you, you can resort to writing things down instead.
- Use drawings, photos, or diagrams if struggling with speech.
- Use gestures, or point to objects to help others understand what you are saying.
- Begin with one-on-one conversations. Speaking with one person at a time can make you feel more comfortable, confident, and less overwhelmed.
- Give the other person time to respond. There may be times when the other person needs extra time to process and understand what you are saying.
- Minimize the time you spend in noisy environments. Background noise can be distracting. It can also make it difficult for you to clearly understand others and for others to clearly understand you.
Coping with aphasia is also essential for friends and relatives of someone with this condition. If your loved one has aphasia, here are tips to help you communicate more effectively.
- Speak more slowly. Slowing down will allow the person to understand you more clearly.
- Shorten your sentences. Short sentences can be more straightforward for the person to process. As time goes by, you can start experimenting with longer sentences.
- Use simple words. This can make it easier for the person to understand you.
- Give the person time to respond. Your loved one with aphasia may need extra time to think about what you're saying and come up with an appropriate response.
- Ask questions to clarify what the person is saying. This is important if you are confused about what the person is saying or if it doesn't make sense. For example, you can ask, "Are you telling me you are hungry?"
- Help your loved one make notebooks with photos, words, diagrams, etc. Your loved one can use this notebook as a tool when communicating with you and others.
- Resort to drawings, written words, and gestures. This is helpful at times. Your loved one cannot understand you. It may help to carry your notebook if you live with someone with aphasia.
- Talk to the person as much as possible. The more practice your loved one has, the faster they may be able to recover from aphasia.
Support groups are also available for family members of people who have aphasia. Don't hesitate to reach out and network with others living with people affected by this condition.
Participating in trials and new research projects about aphasia may be another option if current treatments are not working. This may also be a good option if your loved one isn't recovering as quickly as you hoped. Ask your doctor about new treatments or clinical trials in which your loved one can participate.
Treating Aphasia At Lompoc Valley Medical Center
At Lompoc Valley Medical Center, we understand how recovering from aphasia is critical to your overall well-being. We are devoted to helping you manage your condition and improving your communication ability. Contact us today at (805) 737-3382 to request an appointment and learn more about our many healthcare services.