Aphasia is caused by an injury to the brain, such as:

  • Stroke—most common cause
  • Head injury
  • Brain tumor
  • Brain infection
  • Disorders that cause problems with nervous system cells, such as Alzheimer disease
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Risk Factors

Aphasia is more common in older adults. It is also more common in people who have had a transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a mini-stroke.



Aphasia is a symptom of an underlying problem. A person may have:

  • Problems speaking:
    • Speaking in short, broken phrases
    • Putting words in the wrong order
    • Using incorrect grammar
    • Switching sounds or words
    • Saying that do not have meaning and do not make sense
    • Trouble finding the names for everyday words
  • Problems understanding speech:
    • Needing extra time to process language
    • Problems following very fast speech
    • Taking the literal meaning of a figure of speech
  • Problems reading
  • Problems writing


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. Speech, language, and communication tests may be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis. A doctor who treats the nervous system may also need to be seen.

Other tests may be done to find the cause of the aphasia.



The goals of treatment are to help a person be able to communicate. The cause of aphasia will also need to be treated.

Speech and language therapy will be needed to:

  • Restore lost skills
  • Learn how to use existing skills
  • Learn other ways to communicate


There are no guidelines to prevent aphasia. It is caused by underlying health problems.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.