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Understanding Anomic Aphasia: Symptoms, Treatment, & Recovery

Doctor discussing anomic aphasia in office with patient

Anomic aphasia is a mild type of aphasia that causes failure in word retrieval. It’s also known as anomia or dysnomia in mild instances.

People with anomic aphasia often feel as though they have the word on the tip of their tongue, but cannot recall it.

In this article, you will learn more about the causes and potential treatments for anomic aphasia.

Use the links below to jump straight to any section:

Causes of Anomic Aphasia

Aphasia refers to a class of communication disorders that occur when the language center of the brain becomes damaged.

Aphasia can take many different forms, some more severe than others. The mildest type of aphasia is anomic aphasia. This type causes problems with word retrieval, usually nouns and verbs. However, unlike other types of aphasia, people with anomic aphasia can still otherwise speak fluently. They do not speak in short, effortful sentences as patients with expressive aphasia often do.

Some common causes of anomic aphasia include:

  • Stroke
  • Brain injury
  • Brain tumor
  • Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s or dementia

Anomic aphasia can also be classified into several different subtypes, which we will discuss in the section below.

Types of Anomic Aphasia

woman biting lip and looking confused

People with anomic aphasia often struggle to remember nouns and verbs when speaking. They can usually describe the function of an object but not the name. Their speech is also full of vague words and circumlocutionsFor example, instead of saying “zebra” they may say something like “a black and white animal that looks like a horse.”

Anomic aphasia can take several different forms, depending on the symptoms and severity. The following are a few common types of anomic aphasia:

1. Word Selection Anomia

This is the most common type of anomia. Patients with word selection anomia recognize objects but cannot recall the name, even with assistance.

For example, if they saw a computer, they would know what they would use it for, but they would not be able to tell you what it is called.

2. Semantic Anomia

Semantic anomia causes difficulty with identifying an object, even when given the name. For example, if you asked them to point to a pencil, the person would not be able to pick it out from a group of other objects.

3. Word Production Anomia

This form of anomic aphasia is the mildest form. Patients with this type have trouble producing the name for an object, and often feel like the word is on the tip of their tongue. However, they can recognize and retrieve the right word with correct prompts.

4. Disconnection Anomia

Disconnection anomia is actually a general term that encompasses three subcategories:

  • Category-specific anomia. This refers to the inability to identify one category of objects, such as animals or tools.
  • Modality-specific anomia. People with this type of anomia have difficulty identifying objects using a specific sense such as sight or smell. However, they can usually still identify it using their other, unaffected senses.
  • Callosal anomia. Patients with callosal anomia struggle to transmit information across their brain hemispheres. The name comes from the fact that it is caused by damage to the corpus callosum, the structure that links the left and right hemispheres to each other.

This phenomenon occurs because the left side of the brain typically processes language, while the right side processes sensation on the left side of the body. Therefore, a person holding an object in their left hand would not be able to identify it, because the sensory information must pass from their right hemisphere to the left.

Now that you have a better understanding of the types of anomic aphasia, we can discuss the diagnostic process and different treatment options available.

How Aphasia Is Diagnosed

doctor discussing anomic aphasia diagnosis with patient

To diagnose you with anomic aphasia, your doctor may send you to receive a series of verbal and brain imaging tests. These tests can eliminate any other disorders that may be causing your symptoms. You may also need to see a speech-language pathologist for a proper diagnosis.

MRIs look for brain damage in the left hemisphere. However, with anomia, the damage is often mild and inconsistent and therefore may not appear on a brain scan.

That’s why doctors also recommend verbal tests. These tests can determine whether the problem is with language comprehension or production. They can also help doctors understand which type of anomic aphasia the person may have.

Treatment Methods for Anomic Aphasia

Treatment for anomic aphasia will typically involve training sessions with a speech-language pathologist. These specialists know how to diagnose your type(s) of aphasia and can design a treatment plan that fits your unique needs.

A speech therapist will walk you through various exercises to help you relearn how to speak. The goal of these exercises is to activate your brain’s natural repair mechanism, neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to rewire itself and create new neural pathways. These pathways allow undamaged portions of the brain to take control of functions that were previously controlled by damaged ones.

This means that even if the parts of the brain that normally control language skills are damaged, it’s still possible for other areas to compensate.

The best ways to activate neuroplasticity is through repetitive use of speech therapy activities. The most effective speech therapies for treating anomic aphasia are listed below:

1. Constraint-Induced Language Therapy

Constraint Induced Language Therapy was designed to help people with more severe aphasia regain speaking skills, but it can be used to treat anomia as well. It utilizes the same principles as CIMT (Constraint Induced Movement Therapy)

With movement therapy, the goal is to force the person to use their weak limb by eliminating compensatory tactics. As you practice, your brain can relearn how to use the affected limb again and the patient should begin to regain function.

The same principles apply to Constraint-Induced Language Therapy. With this speech therapy method, a patient would have to:

  • Avoid using compensatory tactics such as gestures, drawings, or writing
  • Communicate only by speaking
  • Practice heavily for at least one hour per day.

With enough practice, you can activate neuroplasticity and should see improvements in your speech.

2. Speech Therapy Drills

For people with mild anomic aphasia, practicing speech therapy exercises is the best approach.

Some examples of speech therapy drills your therapist might show you include:

  • Lip and tongue strengthening exercises
  • Coordination exercises
  • Articulation exercises

To ensure that you progress in your recovery, you must do these activities every day. Mobile apps like the CT Speech & Cognitive Therapy App can walk you through each exercise and help you stay on top of your therapy from the comfort of your own home. There are also apps that are specifically designed to help anomia patients improve their verb and noun recall.

Recovering from Anomia

senior woman giving friend a high five because she recovered from anomic aphasia

Recovery time from anomic aphasia depends on the severity and extent of the brain damage. Since anomia is a relatively mild form of aphasia, most people should make a full recovery. However, some patients may still struggle with word recall for the rest of their lives.

Fortunately, improvement is always possible, even if it has been years since your injury or stroke. That is why it is crucial to continue with your therapy activities.

Anomic Aphasia: Conclusion

Anomic aphasia is a mild form of aphasia that affects a person’s word recall. It occurs as a result of a stroke or brain injury that affects the brain’s left hemisphere. Individuals with anomic aphasia can struggle to produce certain words, but they can otherwise speak fluently.

Some cases of anomia will resolve on their own. However, most will require professional help. To treat anomia, you should work with a speech pathologist, who can devise an effective speech therapy program based on your specific needs.

Since there is no way to predict how long your aphasia will last, the best option is to begin speech therapy immediately. The sooner you can start triggering neuroplasticity, the more progress you will make in your recovery.

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