Aphasia affects a quarter of a million people in the UK and every year another 20,000 cases will be diagnosed. The condition typically affects older people from their mid sixties onwards although there are some triggers for the condition that can occur in children and younger people.
Aphasia affects the brain and causes problems with communication. It causes difficulties in understanding and using language to communicate. There are five types of aphasia which all affect a patient's ability to understand, read or speak words. Expressive Aphasia is one of these variants.
Aphasia is caused by damage to the brain. There are several known causes but the most common trigger is usually a stroke. Studies have shown that up to 40% of stroke survivors suffer from Aphasia. Other frequently seen causes are injuries to the head, brain tumours or conditions such as Alzheimer's Disease which cause degeneration of the brain over an extended period. Aphasia can also be caused by a brain infection like meningitis or by a neurological problem like epilepsy.
Patients who present with Expressive Aphasia will have no difficulty in thinking of a sentence but will find it very difficult to express themselves. This will affect both spoken language and also written communication. People suffering from a mild form of Expressive Aphasia will simply have trouble finding the correct word to insert in their sentence or may have difficulty in following a complex conversation. Other sufferers who have a more severe form of the condition will find their communication considerably impaired and may find that they are entirely unable to participate in conversations. Symptoms include very slow speech or pauses in dialogue, struggling to think of words or the use of incorrect words in a sentence.
If Aphasia is suspected, a patient should be referred to a speech and language therapist who can perform tests to confirm a diagnosis. The patient may be asked to name objects or answer questions. Several scans (MRI, CT or PET scans) can also be taken to investigate the extent of any damage to the brain.
In some cases, Expressive Aphasia will not need any treatment and will eventually rectify itself. Usually, the patient will receive speech therapy to help them to regain some control over the ability to communicate by either helping to restore language skills or by assisting to find alternative communication methods. Research is currently ongoing into the use of medications to treat the condition. Treatment will depend on the severity of the condition and other contributing health factors.
Speech and language therapy will often include group therapies, repeating words and sentences and matching words to objects. It will also help the patient to make the most of other communication methods such as gestures, communication charts or computer generated voice aids.
Expressive Aphasia can be very frustrating and upsetting so relatives and carers may need to take advice on the best way to communicate with their loved one. Patience and understanding are essential in facilitating effective communication.