It’s an unnerving experience to lose your ability to communicate, but it’s not that uncommon. Aphasia can occur anytime the speech center of your brain is obstructed in some way. Permanent aphasia is the result of brain damage, while transient aphasia can be caused by any number of fleeting environmental conditions. Although most cases of transient aphasia are not serious, temporary aphasia sometimes suggests an underlying health problem.
Transient Aphasia Symptoms
Aphasia can affect your ability to use verbal or nonverbal communication. It can affect your comprehension of both. Depending on the underlying cause, the effects can be mild or severe. Someone with aphasia may struggle to read, write, speak, and understand others. It’s also common to experience a loss of feeling in the left side of the body, reflecting the side of the brain involved with speech.
Transient aphasia symptoms include speaking in short phrases, using sentences which only make sense to the speaker, using incorrect words or nonsense words, and using words in an incorrect order. Someone suffering from aphasia may misunderstand figurative language or have particular difficultly with fast-paced speech. But it’s important to understand transient aphasia doesn’t impair intelligence, only the ability to communicate.
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Causes of Temporary Aphasia
A severe migraine can cause you to temporarily lose half of your vision. That’s because the human brain is like an electrical circuit. Disrupting the brain’s circuitry can produce any number of effects, including temporary loss of vision and temporary aphasia. Although most cases of temporary aphasia are the result of migraines, aphasia can be caused by any number of things that create electrical interference in the brain.
For example, another cause of temporary aphasia is a transient ischemic attack. Sometimes called a mini-stoke, TIA describes when blood becomes blocked to a part of the brain for several minutes. The short duration of the attack means damage is unlikely, but TIA can be a warning sign of a more serious problem. Suffering from a transient ischemic attack means you’re at much greater risk of stroke, which is the most common preventable cause of permanent aphasia.
Temporary aphasia can also be caused by an extradural abscess, which is an infection causing pressure on the speech center of the brain. Even seizures produce electrical interference, causing temporary aphasia.
And otherwise healthy individuals can experience aphasia. Transient expressive aphasia is a special form of aphasia that can occur when someone travels to a high altitude. When our bodies are not acclimated to breathing at higher altitudes, breathing lower levels of oxygen in the air can create an electrical disruption in the brain. The result is usually a fairly mild form of temporary aphasia.
Treating Temporary Aphasia
Depending on the source and severity of the temporary aphasia, it may not require treatment. For people who do require treatment, antiepileptic medications are sometimes prescribed as a preventative measure. People who suffer from migraine aphasia can sometimes seek relief with Botox injections.
If you or a loved one experience bouts of temporary aphasia, consider carrying a card explaining the condition. It may also be useful to have a pad and pencil if reading and writing skills are unaffected. Depending on how frequently temporary aphasia occurs, diagnostic procedures may be necessary to look for an underlying cause, like infection. In other words, be sure to keep tabs on how often temporary aphasia occurs, and then keep your doctor in-the-know when it happens.