Aphasia vs. Dysarthria and More: A Look at Different Disorders and How They Affect Areas of the Brain

Media personality Wendy Williams isn't the only person struggling with aphasia, but it is an uncommon disorder that can occur after stroke.

Anna Garrison - Author

Feb. 23 2024, Published 12:24 p.m. ET

Media personality Wendy Williams
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Although aging is a natural aspect of life, getting older can often accompany some scary diagnoses. When celebrity media personality Wendy Williams was first diagnosed with aphasia, many of her fans and followers were concerned about what that meant for the future of her health.

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As it turns out, aphasia is only one of many speech-related disorders that affect the brain, typically as a symptom of a larger problem like stroke or brain injury. Keep reading to find out the differences between aphasia and dysarthria, plus other disorders that are similar and can affect the brain.

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Aphasia is a type of frontotemporal dementia.

Frontotemporal dementia, according to the National Institute on Aging, is an umbrella term for a series of disorders (also known as frontotemporal disorder, or FTD) that is "the result of damage to neurons in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain."

If you are diagnosed with FTD, you could also develop many different types of symptoms, including trouble walking, trouble communicating, difficulty regulating emotions, and unusual behaviors. Tragically, there is currently no cure for FTD, and it does worsen as it progresses.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, aphasia is specifically "a disorder where you have problems speaking or understanding what other people say." There are eight main kinds of aphasia, but the three most common types are Broca's aphasia, Global aphasia, and Wernicke's aphasia.

Aphasia affects two parts of the brain's communication centers. Symptoms can include struggling to form words, repeating phrases, or understanding what someone else is saying to them.

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What is the difference between aphasia vs. dysarthria?

Per Connected Speech Pathology, aphasia and dysarthria have a lot in common, including that both are often caused by factors such as stroke and brain injuries.

The main difference between them is that aphasia is about damage to the areas of the brain that control language and dysarthria is about difficulty controlling the muscles used for speech.

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Because dysarthria affects speech, it can also cause difficulty with breath control and articulation. There are six main types of dysarthria, which vary based on how the nervous system is affected. Symptoms can include things like slowed speech, slurred speech, jerky speech, sounding robotic or monotone, and speaking louder or more quietly than intended.

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What are aphagia and dysphagia?

Similar to aphasia and dysarthria, aphagia concerns the mouth and nose, but instead of difficulty with speech, it causes the inability to swallow, according to the University of South Florida Health Sciences Center. Aphagia is similar to dysphagia, which, per the Cleveland Clinic, means "difficulty swallowing."

There are three main types of dysphagia: oral (where the issue is with your mouth), oropharyngeal (where the issue is with your throat), or esophageal (where the problem is with your esophagus).

Like the other disorders on this list, dysphagia is a brain disorder. It can be caused by many issues, including dementia, ALS, brain tumors, Parkinson's disease, or multiple sclerosis. It has also been linked to muscle disorders and blockage issues.

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What is apraxia?

According to the University of Washington, apraxia, sometimes known as apraxia of speech, is a speech disorder that impairs the ability to speak. Essentially, someone might know the word they want to say, but apraxia makes it difficult for them to communicate all the sounds.

Symptoms of apraxia might include slower speech, speech errors, difficulty imitating speech or sounds, or trying to use fingers to force the mouth and lips to move.

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