Anomic Aphasia: What is it? Causes & Treatment
Many people have never heard of anomic aphasia, and yet 180,000 people acquire it each year. When that many people are affected, we really should be talking about it more often. Our goal is to help you understand anomic aphasia and how to treat it.
What is Anomic Aphasia?
Aphasia is a communication disorder in which a person’s ability to process language is impaired, unrelated to their intelligence. The anomic aphasia definition is milder. It occurs when a person cannot produce the appropriate words for the thing that they wish to speak about. They usually struggle with nouns and verbs the most. Their grammar is correct, and speech is fluent, but they use vague words or descriptions to avoid the word they are trying to say. It has been described as having “a word on the tip of the tongue.” Often, people with anomic aphasia can repeat words spoken to them, but they can’t use the word in a sentence correctly. Another sign is that it’s equally difficult for them to come up with the word when writing down their thoughts.
Anomic aphasia is an acquired disorder. Many people forget a word or have a hard time coming up with the right one at times, but anomic aphasia is frequent and persistent to specific words. It causes incredible stress after a stroke or serious accident.
What Causes Anomic Aphasia?
Specific anomic aphasia causes are unknown, but researchers have found that damage to the left hemisphere of the brain is more likely to cause anomic aphasia, though there is some debate about the specific area in the left hemisphere that causes it.
Some conditions that can cause this type of brain damage are:
Car accidents, sports injuries, falls, and assaults can all cause significant brain injury, leading to permanent damage and causing anomic aphasia. This is more likely if the injury occurs in the left hemisphere.
Depending on their size and location, brain tumors can cause a lot of symptoms, including anomic aphasia. As the tumor grows and intracranial pressure increases, symptoms often become more severe.
Neurodegenerative diseases occur when nerve cells lose function over time and eventually die. These diseases affect millions of people, with Alzheimer’s disease being one of the most common. Anomic aphasia is usually an early symptom of Alzheimer’s and some other forms of dementia.
Stroke is the most common cause of anomic aphasia. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked, preventing blood flow and oxygenation. This causes significant damage and, depending on what part of the brain is affected, can cause anomic aphasia.
Anomic Aphasia Test for Diagnosis
Maybe you’re wondering, do I have anomic aphasia? The only way to know for sure is to have it properly diagnosed. There are three components to testing for anomic aphasia: hearing, verbal, and imaging.
A Hearing test rules out any hearing problems that could be affecting communication skills, and a verbal test assesses whether there is an underlying speech disorder impacting comprehension or the ability to speak. Finally, image testing determines if there are any lesions or damage to the brain. All three of these testing methods are required to ensure accurate results.
An anomic aphasia prognosis depends on the extent of the damage. Although this is considered a mild form of aphasia, the brain damage can be permanent, and the person may never fully recover. If symptoms last for longer than a few months after the initial damage, recovery is unlikely, though some people have seen steady improvement for years after the incident.
Anomic Aphasia Treatment Options
The primary treatment for this form of aphasia is speech therapy. Speech therapy for anomic aphasia is aimed not only at improving speech capabilities but also at finding alternative ways to communicate to work around any deficits.
In severe cases, visual action therapy teaches gestures and other forms of communication, though this is most often used for people experiencing global aphasia.
How Families Can Help
Teaching family members some communication tips is an immense help for the patient, the family, and the speech pathologist. With everyone on board, progress can be quick and easy. A few things for the family to remember:
- Make sure there are no distractions (radio, television, etc.)
- Speak calmly and slowly
- Use age-appropriate words
- Do not finish their sentences
- Give the patient plenty of time to speak as they are able
- Use sign language, written word, and drawings if necessary
A speech-language pathologist can use naming therapy as a way to help the patient recall the words lost in their trauma. Encouraging face-to-face therapies in conjunction with technological therapies (phone and tablet apps) can improve the situation. Allowing a patient to work independently at home empowers them to take the reins when they feel the most out of control.
While anomic aphasia tends to affect older generations more frequently, it’s essential to understand that it can affect anyone at any age. Making treatment age-appropriate is tantamount for success!
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