Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson

What is aphasia?

6/20/2022 by J. Layne Moore, M.D., M.P.H.


Aphasia is a language disorder caused by damage to regions of the brain that control understanding or expression of language. It may result in decreased effectiveness of communication in understanding or expressing oneself, or sometimes both. 

The left side of the brain is responsible for language and speech. The most common cause of aphasia is an injury on the left side of the brain. 

People with aphasia may speak in short sentences or perhaps not make sense when communicating. They might mix up words or be unable to find the right word. They may not understand when spoken to. They are often frustrated by their inability to communicate effectively or find the right word. 

Causes of aphasia include: 

  • Stroke, either ischemic, which is a loss of blood supply, or hemorrhagic, which is bleeding into the brain. Both types of stroke damage brain tissue, and they develop suddenly. 
  • Serious head injuries. 
  • Infections in the brain or the covering of the brain, or meninges. 
  • Brain tumors. 
  • Surgery or radiation for brain tumors.
  • Dementia conditions, including Alzheimer's, which would develop gradually with degeneration of brain cells in the language region of the brain. 

Aphasia is often a sign of a serious problem. Seek emergency care if you or a loved one suddenly develops difficulty speaking, trouble understanding speech, difficulty with word recall or problems with reading or writing. 

J. Layne Moore, M.D., M.P.H., is a neurologist in Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson's Integrated Community Specialty Clinic, where he practices in the Baldwin Building. He practices neurology and sleep medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester and Mayo Clinic Health System in Faribault.