What is Aphasia?

Aphasia is a language or communication disorder that is a result of damage to parts of the brain responsible for language. Aphasia can occur suddenly following a stroke or head injury or it can develop slowly as the result of a brain tumour, a progressive disease of the brain or dementia.

It is estimated that over a third of individuals who suffer a stroke will have some degree of aphasia. The presence of aphasia has been associated with a poorer response to stroke rehabilitation and an increased risk of mortality. (1) Most individuals who still have moderate or severe aphasia six months after having a stroke will continue to live with some degree of aphasia.

Aphasia involves the impairment of the ability to use or understand words. It can cause difficulty with finding words to express oneself as well as difficulty with reading or writing words or sentences.  Aphasia alone does not affect intelligence, but an associated cause or condition such as dementia may have an affect on cognitive abilities.

Aphasia Impacts every part of of a person’s life. These individuals know more than they can say. Because of the difficulty with expression and comprehension of language and the decreased ability to take part in interactive conversations, aphasia can:

  • mask a person’s ability to participate in making their own decisions
  • affect a person’s ability to communicate their needs, feelings or emotions
  • lead to a loss of self-esteem
  • affect a person’s relationships and life role
  • cause social isolation
  • cause barriers to accessing services and care


  1. Canadian stroke best practice recommendations: Stroke rehabilitation practice guidelines, update 2015, International Journal of Stroke 2016. Vol. 11(4) 459-484 Retrieved from: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1747493016643553
  1. Aphasia Institute, 2015.   What is Aphasia?   Retrieved from: http://www.aphasia.ca/home-page/about-aphasia/what-is-aphasia/
  2. American Heart Association, 2017: Aphasia   Retrieved from: http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/LifeAfterStroke/RegainingIndependence/CommunicationChallenges/Stroke-and-Aphasia_UCM_462875_SubHomePage.jsp

Facts About Aphasia for Healthcare Providers