Get the latest COVID-19 information: vaccines, testing, getting care and more
Doctor's office
Enter your doctor's name to get office information.
Find labs in your network
Enter your primary care doctor's name to find labs in your network.
Find urgent care centers in your network
Enter your primary care doctor's name to find urgent care centers in your network.
Verify your medical group

Refer to your insurance card or call your insurance provider to determine your medical group.

You can also search for your primary care doctor to find the medical group you and your doctor belong to.

Driving Directions
Update Information
Forgot Password

Please enter your e-mail address.

Sharp Health News

What is aphasia?

April 27, 2022

Illustrated depiction of aphasia

Recently, the family of Bruce Willis announced the actor — famous for the TV show “Moonlighting” and movies including “Die Hard” and “The Sixth Sense” — was “stepping away from the career that has meant so much to him” after receiving a diagnosis of aphasia. The condition is a brain disorder that impairs the ability to speak, understand others, read and write.

According to the National Aphasia Association, the most common cause of aphasia is stroke, but it can also be the result of a tumor, traumatic brain injury or other neurological conditions. Approximately 180,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with the condition each year. Aphasia is most diagnosed in older adults, but it can affect anyone, including children.

“Aphasia basically impacts a person’s communication,” says Dr. Yu Dennis Cheng, a board-certified neurologist affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital. “There are two types of aphasia. The first affects a person’s fluency of speech and the second is related to understanding speech.”

While aphasia affects the area of the brain responsible for language, it does not affect a person’s intelligence. Someone with aphasia will have difficulty retrieving words, but it is the ability to access the language for certain thoughts — rather than the thoughts themselves — that is disrupted.

Treatment of aphasia depends on its cause
While some forms of aphasia are difficult to treat, aphasia following a brain injury can be treated with speech-language therapy, which can help improve communication skills. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports language and communication abilities can improve over many years.

According to Dr. Cheng, the cause of the brain injury, the area of the brain that was damaged, the extent of the damage, and a person’s age and overall health will affect treatment and recovery.

“Treatment mainly depends on the reason for the aphasia,” Dr. Cheng says. “For instance, if a patient has Alzheimer’s disease, it will be very difficult to treat. However, if they have a tumor, the symptoms can improve by removing the tumor.”

Additional forms of treatment include therapy to improve a person’s ability to communicate by helping them use their remaining language abilities, restore language abilities, and learn other ways of communicating. This can include the use of gestures, images and speech-generating applications on digital devices.

The importance of family involvement
The NIH strongly recommends that family members become involved in a loved one’s treatment to learn the best way to communicate with one another and to encourage communication. A normal conversational manner appropriate for an adult should be used, and the person with aphasia should be included in conversations as they were prior to their aphasia symptoms or diagnosis.

Additional tips for loved ones of an individual with aphasia include:

  • Participating in therapy sessions, if possible
  • Simplifying language by using short, uncomplicated sentences
  • Repeating or writing down words to clarify meaning as needed
  • Minimizing distractions, such as a loud radio or TV, when communicating
  • Asking for and valuing their opinion, especially regarding family matters
  • Encouraging any type of communication, whether it is speech, gestures or drawing
  • Avoiding correcting their speech and allowing them plenty of time to talk
  • Helping them become involved outside the home, such as by joining support groups

Willis’ loved ones noted that they will be following this guidance. In a statement released by several family members, they shared that while the diagnosis has been challenging, they plan on “moving through this as a strong family unit.”

You might also like:

Choose the doctor who's right for you.

At Sharp, we make it easy to find an exceptional doctor — right where you live and work.

All Categories
Contact Sharp HealthCare
Call us

Call 1-800-827-4277 or view our detailed phone directory.

For medical or psychiatric emergencies, call 911 immediately.

Email us

Please do not use this form to convey personal or medical information.

How would you like to be contacted?
Date of birth

What's This?

These important numbers are located on your billing statement.

Find your Sharp Rees-Stealy account number

Find your SharpCare account number

Find your SharpCare account number
What's GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) governs the processing of personal information gathered from individuals while they are in the European Union (EU) and parts of the EEA (European Economic Area, which currently includes Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway).

We are sorry, but we are unable to process your price estimate if you live or are travelling within the EU or affiliated nations.

What's This?

Many surgery and procedure names sound similar. If possible, please provide the current procedure terminology (CPT) code, which can be found on the order from your doctor.

If you cannot provide the CPT code, please contact your doctor's office for the CPT or a detailed description of services.