Bruce Willis, the US actor and filmmaker, left many of his fans worried on Wednesday when he announced he is retiring from acting due to his aphasia diagnosis.

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Rumer, Bruce’s daughter, who spoke on his behalf, said the condition has taken a toll on the actor’s cognitive abilities.

As expected, Bruce’s ailing health has made aphasia a subject of interest and left many people asking lots of questions about the disorder.

Aphasia is not a commonly discussed health issue among people even though it affects a significant number of individuals globally.

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According to the National Aphasia Association (NAA), the disease affects about two million people in the United States alone.

WHAT IS APHASIA?

Aphasia is a communication disorder usually caused by damage in one or more areas of the brain that control language.

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It makes it hard to use words as it affects one’s speech, writing, hearing and ability to understand language.

Even though aphasia hinders a person’s ability to communicate, it does not affect the intelligence of those affected.

TYPES OF APHASIA

Aphasia has several types which is determined by the part of the brain that is damaged.

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Below are common types of the disease:

  • Global aphasia

This is the most severe type of all forms of aphasia. It occurs when there is a major damage at the front and back of the left side of your brain.

It affects all aspects of language. People with this type of aphasia usually have hard time speaking and understanding words as well as reading and writing.

  • Anomic aphasia

Here, listening and reading ability might remain intact. However, those affected tend to have problems with finding the right words to express themselves either while writing or speaking.

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  • Fluent or Wernicke’s aphasia

People with this type of aphasia tend to produce grammatically accurate statement. However, they find it difficult to understand other people’s speech.

  • Non-fluent or Broca’s aphasia

Here, the person experience difficulty in speaking. Speech production is often short, halted and effortful, although they still have the ability to read and understand.

  • Primary progressive aphasia

As the name implies, this type of aphasia is progressive. People affected with this type of disorder tend to lose their ability to talk, write, comprehend, and read gradually. This is a rare type and it gets worse over time.

WHAT CAUSES APHASIA?

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Basically, aphasia occurs when there is a damage on any part of the brain that controls speech and language recognition.

A 2016 study showed that nine and 62 percent of people who have a stroke experience some degree of aphasia — which makes stroke a major cause.

Aphasia can also be caused by;

  • Brain tumor
  • Alzheimer’s disease like dementia
  • Brain infection
  • Migraine
  • Severe head/brain injury

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF APHASIA?

Symptoms of aphasia vary from mild to severe, depending on the part of the brain damaged.

The common ones include:

  • Difficulty in speaking
  • Struggling with finding the right term or word
  • Using strange or wrong words in conversation
  • Difficulty in understanding other people’s speech
  • Writing sentences that don’t have meaning
  • Speaking in short sentences or phrases
  • Using unrecognizable words
  • Misunderstanding figurative speech

IS APHASIA CURABLE?

Aphasia is not a death sentence — meaning, it is curable.

However, the treatment that will be given will be in line with the type of aphasia and also the age of the victim.

The major treatment for aphasia is speech and language therapy. When started early, speech therapy slowly helps to improve the ability to communicate, understand and write.

CAN APHASIA BE PREVENTED?

Prevention, they say, is better than cure. Since stroke is the major cause, aphasia can be stopped exactly as stroke can be prevented.

This can be done by taking healthy diet, exercising and monitoring one’s blood pressure regularly.

Other tips to help an aphasia patient includes:

  • Maintain eye contact
  • Keep your words simple
  • Talk slowly
  • Avoid noisy environment
  • Give them time to express themselves
  • Observe their body language



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