What is aphasia and what does it cause

What is aphasia and what does it cause

On Wednesday, March 30, the family of Bruce Willis, a 67-year-old actor known for films such as Die Hard and The Sixth Sense, announced through an Instagram post that the actor will have to retire from acting following a diagnosis of aphasia. a speech disorder that undermines the ability to understand, verbally express, read and write.

“To Bruce's extraordinary supporters, as a family we wanted to share that our beloved Bruce has had some health problems and has recently been diagnosed with aphasia, which is affecting his cognitive abilities. As a result, and with much thought, Bruce is moving away from the career that meant so much to him, ”writes Emma Heming Willis, British model and wife of the actor.

The wife added: “This is a very busy time for our family and we greatly appreciate your continued love, compassion and support. We are going through this as a strong family unit and we wanted to involve fans of him because we know how much he means to you, as well as you to him. As Bruce always says, "enjoy your life" and together we intend to do just that ".

What is aphasia According to the US National Institute of Health, aphasia is an acquired disorder due to a damage to the brain areas responsible for language, which in most people are on the left side of the brain. Most often, aphasia comes on suddenly, especially when the cause of the brain injury is a stroke (in about 85% of cases) or head trauma, but it can also develop slowly, due to progressive neurological diseases (such as Alzheimer's disease), brain infections or brain tumors.

As a consequence of the damage, aphasic people are able to articulate their thoughts normally, but have difficulty understanding what other people are saying, expressing themselves verbally, reading and writing. Depending on the areas of the brain affected by the damage, some components of language may be particularly impaired compared to others: the degree of difficulty encountered in understanding and verbal expression depends on each individual situation.

Aphasia, in fact, can manifest itself in very different forms: in addition to not understanding people who speak or struggling to read, single terms may be missing in the verbal production of a person with aphasia. it can make a mistake in the grammatical construction of a sentence or produce poorly the sounds of words.

Along with aphasia, other disorders can also occur such as dysarthria (the difficulty in controlling the muscles used to speak), apraxia (difficulty in moving the muscles of the mouth in the correct way to formulate words) and dysphagia (difficulty swallowing).

The Numbers Most people with aphasia are elderly people, but this disorder can affect anyone. According to the US National Aphasia Association, about 1 million people in the United States currently suffer from aphasia and there are nearly 180,000 new cases every year.

As for Italy, the Federation of Aphasic Italian Associations reports in a disclosure document, aphasia is more frequent than other more well-known diseases, such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's disease: although direct data is lacking on the incidence of this disorder, it is estimated between 22 thousand and 99 thousand new cases of aphasia per year. Comparing the US data with those of the Italian population, there would be about 200 thousand people currently with aphasia in Italy.

Treatments Immediately after the brain injury, thanks to the intrinsic ability of the brain to recover, albeit in part, from damage, it happens very often that aphasic people improve in language and communication skills even without any treatment. After an initial recovery period, however, the disorders related to aphasia may persist. In these cases, rehabilitation treatment is followed.

Therapy for aphasia (which can be either individual or in small groups through mainly speech therapy exercises), aims to improve the communication skills of an aphasic person, helping him to use the remaining language skills, restore lost skills as much as possible and to learn other ways of communicating (such as gestures, images or use of electronic devices).

Just like the manifestation of the disorder, the margins for improvement also vary for each situation and depend on the cause of the brain injury, the area of ​​the brain that was damaged and its extent, age and state of health of the aphasic person. However, several evidences have shown that linguistic and communication skills can continue to improve for many years: sometimes even new brain activity is recorded in the areas affected by the damage. Finally, sociability and family involvement can be very important for aphasic people, as they can help them regain their confidence and self-esteem and improve their communication skills.

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