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Aphasia Vs. Dysarthria: What's The Difference?

The primary difference between aphasia and dysarthria is that aphasia is a language disorder, affecting an individual's ability to communicate through language, while dysarthria is a motor speech disorder, affecting an individual's ability to physically produce speech.

Being the center for firing all the impulses required for proper functioning of our body, the physiology of our brain is quite complex. Hence when it comes to treatment of brain injuries, it can be quite complicated. If there is damage to the language center, it can result in various conditions, aphasia and dysarthria are two major conditions that affect the ability of a person to communicate.


What is aphasia?

Aphasia is a generalized term often used when a person suffers with partial or complete loss of the ability to speak or understand language, thereby affecting the ability of a person to communicate effectively. This can be either due to some disease or injury to the brain.


Causes of aphasia

Any condition that can damage the brain structure or disrupt the brain function can lead to aphasia. The common known causes of aphasia are:-

  • Stroke- also known as transient ischemic attack, leads to lack of blood supply to the brain leading to death of the brain cells, ultimately disrupting the brain function.

  • Alzheimer’s disease

  • Aneurysm is abnormal dilatation and weakening of blood vessels.

  • Concussion or Traumatic brain injury

  • Epilepsy or seizures.

  • Genetic causes like Wilson's disease

  • Toxins, like carbon monoxide inhalation.


Symptoms based on types of aphasia.


Aphasia can present with a wide range of symptoms based on the location of injury in the brain. Most often medical practitioners divide the tyoes of aphasia based on the ability of the patient to repeat the words, speak fluently, and understand what others say to them.

Few types of aphasia are-

  • Wernicke's aphasia- it is also known as fluent aphasia. The damage occurs in the side portion of the left hemisphere of the brain. The person has difficulty understanding what other people are saying to them, but the person speaks fluently in long sentences that often don't make any sense. The patient is often unaware that they aren't able to communicate effectively.

  • Broca's aphasia- known as expressive aphasia. As the name suggests the person understands what is being said to them, but the patient ends up facing difficulties in choosing the correct words to express themselves, often leading to frustration and irritation. The damage occurs in the front part of the left hemisphere.

  • Global aphasia- it is observed in cases of extensive brain injury. The person has difficulty in understanding others and expressing themselves. It is often accompanied with defects like loss of vision, or paralysis.


Diagnosis and treatment of aphasia-


Diagnosing aphasia requires proper physical checkup, detailed history, diagnostic imaging and much more. Your doctor will prescribe a battery of investigations, few of them are:-

  • Blood test, to rule out immune causes.

  • CT scan and MRI for a detailed imaging of the brain.

  • Nerve function test like hearing, vision, perception.

  • Genetic tests.

  • For evaluation of communication skills, detailed workup with a specialist like speech language pathologist.


Treatment of aphasia


Treatment and recovery from aphasia are majorly based on the extent of brain damage. A trusted speech therapist can help you overcome the condition.

If a person suffers less damage they can completely recover with minimal loss of normal functioning. But if a person suffers extensive damage, the recovery might not be complete and the goal is to regain the lost skills and learn new ones through pictures, gestures, and technology.


What is dysarthria?

Dysarthria is a condition that occurs when the person isn’t able to speak due to damage to regions of the brain involved in the motor control over the tongue, throat, muscles of speech, and impaired regulation of airflow.


Common causes of dysarthria include:-

  • Stroke, severe trauma to the brain, and brain tumors.

  • Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and motor neuron degenerative disease.

  • Genetic conditions like Down’s syndrome, Myasthenia gravis, and Huntington's disease.



Symptoms of dysarthria


A person suffering from dysarthria mainly presents with difficulty in speaking, as the muscles involved in speech are either weak or it is difficult for the person to control them. It can present as:-

  • Mumbled, broken, or robotic tone,

  • A voice that is often weak or breathy,

  • Difficulty in moving their lips, tongue, and facial muscles,

  • The pace of speech is either too fast or too slow,

  • Slurred speech,

  • Nasal and raspy voice.

The person often ends up having difficulty communicating properly, which ultimately has an impact on their social and personal relationships. In a few people this can lead to depression and social isolation as it can have on a person’s self-confidence.


Types of dysarthria-

Dysarthria is often classified into subtypes based on the location of injury in the brain and the abnormal speech pattern.

  • Flaccid dysarthria- when the lower motor neurons (connect the brain to muscles) are affected.

  • Spastic dysarthria- when upper motor neurons (connects higher centers in the brain) are affected.

  • Ataxic dysarthria- when the connection of various centers of the brain with the cerebellum is affected.

  • Hyperkinetic and hypokinetic dysarthria- damage to control centers of muscles of head, neck, and limbs.


Treatment of dysarthria


If you have dysarthria, you will be referred to a speech therapist. They will evaluate your condition and assess the kind of dysarthria you have and the extent of damage to the brain. They will formulate a therapy plan as per your requirement, for some people with extensive brain damage the therapy is often focused on learning to communicate via means other than speech.

Speech therapy often includes-

  • Exercise to strengthen tongue and facial muscles.

  • Regulating your breathing.

  • Regulating your speech when talking, for example, slowing down and focusing on speaking clearly.

  • Using various communication aids like picture boards, gestures, electronic devices, various apps, etc.


Difference between aphasia and dysarthria


Communication disorders both aphasia and dysarthria make it difficult for the person to speak. The key differences between aphasia and dysarthria are:-

  • Aphasia is a language disorder, whereas, dysarthria is a motor disorder,

  • Aphasia is due to damage to parts of the brain, whereas dysarthria is due to damage to motor nerves,

  • In Aphasia, a person has difficulty understanding others and expressing themselves, whereas in dysarthria a person has difficulty in speaking.

As both aphasia and dysarthria occur due to damage to brain centers, sometimes a person can present with both conditions simultaneously. It is known as a mixed receptive-expressive language disorder.






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