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What is aphasia and what are the signs?

Aphasia is a condition that robs a person of their ability to communicate, according to the Mayo Clinic.

HOUSTON — The announcement that Hollywood icon Bruce Willis is stepping away from acting due to being diagnosed with aphasia has shed light on the medical condition.

According to the Mayo Clinic, aphasia is a condition that robs a person of their ability to communicate and typically occurs suddenly after a stroke or head injury. It can also come on gradually from a slow-growing brain tumor or a disease that causes progressive, permanent damage.

RELATED: Bruce Willis 'stepping away' from acting, family reveals

What are the signs of aphasia?

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, aphasia can lead to a number of different problems. Those diagnosed with the disorder may have trouble talking, understanding, reading, and writing.

When it comes to talking, those with aphasia:

  • Can't think of the words you want to say.
  • Say the wrong word. Sometimes, you may say something related, like "fish" instead of "chicken." Or you might say a word that does not make much sense, like "radio" for "ball."
  • Switch sounds in words. For example, you might say "wish dasher" for "dishwasher."
  • Use made-up words.
  • Have a hard time saying sentences. Single words may be easier.
  • Put made-up words and real words together into sentences that do not make sense.

When it comes to understanding, those with aphasia may:

  • Not understand what others say. 
  • Find it hard to understand what others say when it is noisy or you are in a group.
  • Have trouble understanding jokes.

When it comes to reading and writing, those with aphasia may have trouble with:

  • Reading forms, books, and computer screens.
  • Spelling and putting words together to write sentences.
  • Using numbers or doing math..

What is the main cause of aphasia?

AHSA says aphasia is most often caused by stroke. However, any type of brain damage can cause aphasia. This includes brain tumors, traumatic brain injury, and brain disorders that get worse over time.

When should you see a doctor about aphasia?

According to the Mayo Clinic, aphasia is a sign of a serious problem like a stroke, so patients should seek emergency medical care especially if they have:

  • Difficulty speaking
  • Trouble understanding speech
  • Difficulty with word recall
  • Problems with reading or writing

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