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What Is Wernicke's Aphasia?

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  • Written By: Stephany Seipel
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 19 September 2016
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Wernicke's aphasia is a type of communication disorder, or aphasia, that interferes with a patient's ability to express himself or herself clearly. This condition occurs when the temporal lobe of the brain is damaged because of a stroke, tumor or traumatic brain injury. Healthcare professionals treat Wernicke's aphasia with speech and language therapy.

Patients who have aphasia have difficulty understanding written or spoken language and might have trouble expressing themselves well enough for others to understand them. There are a number of different types of aphasia. These disorders are categorized as either non-fluent or fluent.

Patients who have non-fluent aphasia have difficulty speaking. Some people who have non-fluent aphasia can use only a few words, and others cannot speak at all or cannot understand others, depending on the area of the brain that is damaged. People who have fluent aphasia can speak, but they have a great deal of difficulty understanding conversations. Wernicke's aphasia is categorized as a type of fluent aphasia.

People who have Wernicke's aphasia do not always make sense when they talk. They add syllables to words, insert nonsense words or words that do not apply to the topic and use long, rambling sentences. They are not necessarily aware that their speech is different from the speech patterns of other people, but they often have a hard time understanding what others are saying.

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Some individuals who have this disorder speak rapidly and interrupt others. Most sufferers tend to have relatively normal grammar and can still use complex grammatical structures, but their sentences lack meaning. Many patients replace related words with other words, such as saying "chair" for "table;" others replace letters or sounds in known words, such as saying "hish" for "fish."

This disorder might also extend to the patient's writing. People who have Wernicke's aphasia usually do not suffer from motor coordination issues and are able to perform manual skills such as writing, but their writing often resembles their speech. They might also have problems reading, depending on the areas of the brain that are damaged.

A neurologist or speech-language pathologist diagnoses Wernicke's aphasia by talking to the patient and asking him or her a series of questions. He or she might also give the patient a series of commands to follow or ask the person to name objects. The healthcare provider determines the severity of the condition based on the patient's responses.

Patients who have Wernicke's aphasia have a poor prognosis for rehabilitation. Speech therapists work with patients to improve their language skills. Patients also practice communicating with others using non-verbal forms of communication, such as facial cues and hand signals.

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