The term aphasia refers to an acquired speech disorder, which in 80 percent of cases develops as a result of a stroke.
Among patients with a first-time stroke, about 30 percent have aphasia. In about a third of cases with initial aphasia, there is a most extensive normalization of speech functions within the first four weeks. After this time window, however, the spontaneous regression of the symptoms continues to decrease. After six months, 44 percent are free of aphasic symptoms.
Four standard syndromes of aphasia
Four standard syndromes of aphasia are distinguished, which differ in their appearance and symptoms.
1. Broca’s aphasia
People with Broca’s aphasia often speak to each other individually in short, simple sentences or rows of content-bearing words. Speaking resembles a “telegram style”. The flow of speech is often greatly slowed down and strained, finding the right words makes it even more difficult to speak. The general understanding of language is comparatively well preserved.
2. Wernicke aphasia
People with Wernicke aphasia often produce long, nested sentences in which parts of sentences or entire sentences are repeated. In severe cases, there is a seemingly fluid production of speech, but its content makes little or no sense. The choice of appropriate words or sounds is often difficult for people with Wernicke aphasia. The understanding of language is usually severely impaired.
3. Amnestic aphasia
Amnestic aphasia is the easiest form of aphasia. Those affected show word-finding disorders in spontaneous speech and in the direct naming of objects. These are circumvented by the use of phrases or the rewriting of words. Rarely, the target word is replaced by a word that has a semantic proximity (e.g. flower instead of tree) or sentence breaks occur.
4. Global aphasia
Global aphasia is the most severe form of aphasia. The understanding of language as well as production are severely disrupted. Global aphasics often speak only single words or the same phrase over and over again. The understanding of language is severely limited, so that often only individual words can be understood or these are derived from the respective situation. Often aphasias occur along with other communication disorders.