ACQUIRED EPILEPTIC APHASIA (LANDAU-KLEFFNER SYNDROME)
Symptoms, Causes & Treatments
Aphasia or LANDAU-KLEFFNER SYNDROME is a condition that robs you of the ability to communicate. It can affect your ability to speak, write and understand language, both verbal and written.
Aphasia typically occurs suddenly after a stroke or a head injury. But it can also come on gradually from a slow-growing brain tumor or a disease that causes progressive, permanent damage (degenerative). Where and how bad the brain damage is and what caused it determine the degree of disability.
Once the cause has been addressed, the main treatment for aphasia is speech and language therapy. The person with aphasia relearns and practices language skills and learns to use other ways to communicate. Family members often participate in the process, helping the person communicate.
Aphasia is a sign of some other condition, such as a stroke or a brain tumor.
A person with aphasia may:
• Speak in short or incomplete sentences
• Speak in sentences that don’t make sense
• Substitute one word for another or one sound for another
• Speak unrecognizable words
• Not understand other people’s conversation
• Write sentences that don’t make sense
The severity and scope of the problems depend on the extent of damage and the area of the brain affected.
The most common cause of aphasia is brain damage resulting from a stroke — the blockage or rupture of a blood vessel in the brain. Loss of blood to the brain leads to brain cell death or damage in areas that control language.
Brain damage caused by a severe head injury, a tumor, an infection or a degenerative process also can cause aphasia. In these cases, the aphasia usually occurs with other types of cognitive problems, such as memory problems or confusion.
Primary progressive aphasia is the term used for language difficulty that develops gradually. This is due to the gradual degeneration of brain cells located in the language networks. Sometimes this type of aphasia will progress to a more generalized dementia.
Sometimes temporary episodes of aphasia can occur. These can be due to migraines, seizures or a transient ischemic attack (TIA). A TIA occurs when blood flow is temporarily blocked to an area of the brain. People who’ve had a TIA are at an increased risk of having a stroke in the near future.
If the brain damage is mild, a person may recover language skills without treatment. However, most people undergo speech and language therapy to rehabilitate their language skills and supplement their communication experiences. Researchers are currently investigating the use of medications, alone or in combination with speech therapy, to help people with aphasia.
Speech and language rehabilitation
Recovery of language skills is usually a relatively slow process. Although most people make significant progress, few people regain full pre-injury communication levels.
For aphasia, speech and language therapy tries to improve the person’s ability to communicate by restoring as much language as possible, teaching how to compensate for lost language skills and finding other methods of communicating.
• Starts early. Some studies have found that therapy is most effective when it begins soon after the brain injury.
• Often works in groups. In a group setting, people with aphasia can try out their communication skills in a safe environment. Participants can practice initiating conversations, speaking in turn, clarifying misunderstandings and fixing conversations that have completely broken down.
• May include use of computers. Using computer-assisted therapy can be especially helpful for relearning verbs and word sounds (phonemes).
Certain drugs are currently being studied for the treatment of aphasia. These include drugs that may improve blood flow to the brain, enhance the brain’s recovery ability or help replace depleted chemicals in the brain (neurotransmitters). Several medications, such as memantine (Namenda) and piracetam, have shown promise in small studies. But more research is needed before these treatments can be recommended.