Link between Stroke and Aphasia

Deanne Stein Health Guide
  • I’m in the business of communication. Being a television reporter, that skill is important on a daily basis. But this week, I stepped up those skills. We saw the deadliest fire in 50 years here in Huntington, West Virginia. Nine people died. Several of us reporters were doing numerous live reports, especially in the first 12 to 24 hours.

    That’s not always an easy task when you have to come up with clear, concise sentences off the top of your head, while trying to keep your facts accurate.

    After I had my stroke, I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to go back to work or at least report the news on television. My face was drooping on one side and I was really slow in my thinking. I remember I couldn’t think of the simplest things. For instance, my speech therapist would ask me which restaurant was my favorite. I could see the Chili’s in my head, but couldn’t think of the name.
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    I had a lot of memory problems. It was frustrating. But eventually it all worked out. I know now how lucky I was. Even though those problems were tough on me, it’s nothing in comparison to what other stroke survivors go through.

    The total or partial loss of the ability to use or understand language is called aphasia. It is usually caused by a stroke, but can also be caused by brain disease or an injury. A brain injury can include severe blows to the head, brain tumors or brain infections. The disorder impairs the expression and understanding of language as well as reading and writing. About one million Americans currently have aphasia and approximately 80,000 people acquire it each year.

    A doctor who treats someone for a brain injury first recognizes aphasia. When it’s recognized, the doctor often will refer the patient to a speech-language pathologist. This is a health professional trained to evaluate and treat people who have voice, speech, language, or swallowing disorders (including hearing impairment) that affect their ability to communicate.

    A speech-language pathologist treated me after my stroke. Ironically, it was the same person who helped me earlier in my career with speaking properly on television. She taught me exercises to make my voice deeper and more confident. Now, I was seeing her to learn how to remember simple things and how to talk without slurring.

    It was discouraging at first, but soon everything worked out. What really helped was when she would put a low electrical current in the affected areas of my face. It just woke up my nerves and after several months, the droop in my face slowly disappeared.

    In some instances an individual will completely recover from aphasia without treatment. This type of "spontaneous recovery" usually occurs following a transient ischemic attack (TIA), a kind of stroke in which the blood flow to the brain is temporarily interrupted but quickly restored. In these circumstances, language abilities may return in a few hours or a few days.

    For most cases of aphasia, however, language recovery is not as quick or as complete. Recovery usually continues over a 2-year period. Most people believe that the most effective treatment begins early in the recovery process. Doctors also suggest joining a stroke club for support. A loving, caring family also helps people with aphasia recover.
Published On: February 02, 2007