Humans are built with complex systems and body functions that enable them to be part of society living in a social setting. There are two ways of communication which are verbal or non-verbal. Verbal communications being the most significant and effective way of exchanging messages between humans is certainly important for humans in daily life. There are many conditions that can affect the way people communicate. When a person is unable to communicate with others efficiently, the person itself or people around them will ask a doctor what is wrong. In this article, we will know more about conditions known as dysarthria and aphasia that cause a person unable to speak well.


Aphasia is defined as a disorder resulting from damage to parts of the brain that plays a vital role in language. Aphasia may develop suddenly after a stroke or head injury but in some cases, it may evolve slowly due to chronic disease such as progressive neurological disease or brain tumour. Aphasia may affect people across all walks of life but most common in those in middle-aged or older people. Aphasia mainly affects 4 ways people comprehend and utilise language skills. These 4 ways are listening, reading, speaking, writing or typing. Simply said, aphasia revolves around these 4 ways and a person may have one or more types of aphasia at a time.

Aphasia is caused by damage to brain areas that function as language areas. In stroke, a blood clot or leakage from blood vessels hinders blood flow in the brain. This disruption to normal blood supply leads to death of brain cells as these cells are unable to live due to lack of oxygen and nutrients to survive. For tumour cases, the tumour size might have caused blockage and disturbance to the blood flow of the language area in the brain. While in infection, aphasia may be caused by swelling that directly impacts the brain’s language centres.

There are several types of aphasia and its symptoms will be dependent on the types. Below are examples of common aphasia diagnosed in clinical settings:

1) Broca’s aphasia- People with this type of aphasia may understand speech and know what they want to say as they are able to understand the speech of others but have difficulties to speak. This causes them to speak short phrases that bring meanings and often eliminate words such as “is”, “the” and “and” in attempt to speak as speaking themselves requires them with great effort. People with Broca aphasia are associated with impairment in motor movement causing weakness or paralysis of both upper and lower limb.

2) Wernicke’s aphasia- Difficulty to understand what other people are saying and often speak in long and complete sentences that do not bring meaning. Sometimes they even add unnecessary words or made-up new words.

3) Global aphasia- People with global aphasia have severe communication difficulties that lead to difficulties in comprehending language and speaking.


Dysarthria is a speech disorder. It results in abnormalities of speed, strength, accuracy, range, tone and duration required for speech control. There are many causes that can lead to dysarthria including infections, vascular disorder such as stroke, brain tumour, degenerative disease such as Parkinson’s disease, nerve trauma, toxic substance and even genetic disorder. Some medications may even contribute to dysarthria such as antiepileptic.

Symptoms of dysarthria depend on the locations affected. Common symptoms include unclear speech, difficulty moving the mouth, tongue or lips, slurred or slow speech, difficulty controlling volume of voice, changes to voice such as nasal, strained or monotone and have difficulty when talking or speaking in short bursts instead of full sentences. Stress and tiredness can aggravate the symptoms.

In essence, dysarthria and aphasia may seem like the same condition but it is not. People with aphasia can have problems understanding speech, speaking or even both but this is in contrast with dysarthria where the only problem is to speak clearly. A person may actually have aphasia and dysarthria at the same time. Either dysarthria or aphasia, treatment is available to help improve symptoms. Often, a patient is referred to a therapist. Although treatment such as speech or language therapy can help patients have a better quality of life, doctors will often find the cause of the problems and tackle this issue.

If you or a person you know is affected by any of the two conditions, it can be quite frustrating to live with but with perseverance and hope, quality of life can be improved gradually with help from healthcare professionals. Talk to healthcare professionals on what to expect from treatment or the conditions. Knowing the outcome can at least help patients set realistic expectations and be prepared both mentally and physically. This information can help both patient and caregiver or people around them to know what to do and how to cope with daily life situations.

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