Stroke Terms
in Plain Words



Understanding stroke terms or medical terms related to stroke is important to stroke survivors and their families.

Here is a list of common stroke terms explained in a way that we hope is easy to understand:


Aneurysm: The swelling or ballooning of a weakened area of an artery wall in the brain. The vessel wall may become so thin and stretched that it bursts causing bleeding into the brain.

Apraxia: In the absence of muscle weakness or paralysis, a disturbance in purposely planning and performing muscle movements. Generally, apraxia causes a disruption between thought and action.

Arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries): A condition characterized by thickening and hardening of the inner lining of artery walls. The presence of fatty deposits (called plaques), may lead to a narrowing of the artery and may eventually block the artery completely.

Artherosclerotic Plaque: cholesterol and calcium deposits on the wall of the inside of the heart or artery.

Atrial Fibrillation: This is a kind of irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). It can cause a blood clot to form in the heart which can shear off and travel to the brain.

Auditory Processing: The ability to hear auditory messages, distinguish between similar sounds or words, separate relevant speech from background noise, and the ability to recall and comprehend what was heard.

Cerebrovascular Accident (CVA): This can be considered the "medical term" for a stroke. A CVA occurs when the blood supply to the brain is disrupted. As a result, brain cells lose their oxygen supply causing some cells to die and leaving other cells damaged.

Cognition: The ability to think, reason, and remember.

Diagnosis: The process of identifying a disease or disorder through evaluation, examination, recording patient history, and review of the completed data.

Diseased Arteries: Blockage of the arteries is usually the result of artherosclerosis, shrinking and narrowing of the artery walls with a mixture of cholesterol and other debris, known as atheroma.

Dysarthria: a weakness of the muscles involved in speech production, such as the tongue, lips, and jaw. Learn how your loved one can start improving their speech clarity today!

Dysphagia: Difficulty with swallowing food or liquids due to problems in nerve or muscle control.

Dysprosody: difficulties with the timing, stress, and melody of speech.

Embolism: a blood clot that forms somewhere in the body, breaks loose, travels through the blood vessels, and clings to the wall of a blood vessel in the brain.

Executive Functioning: The brain's ability to process feedback, interpret events, and react appropriately to life's ups and downs.

People who demonstrate problems with executive functioning have difficulty planning out their day, organizing their time properly, reacting in a suitable manner, or adapting to situations when things aren't working.

Expressive Aphasia: Also known as, Broca's aphasia. An individual with expressive aphasia will usually be able to comprehend spoken or written language, but their own speech and/or writing is impaired. Effective aphasia treatment is now available!

Expressive Skills: The ability to convey thoughts and ideas through spoken or written language.

Global Aphasia: The most severe characteristics of both, expressive aphasia and receptive aphasia. There is an almost total reduction of all aspects of speech, written language, and comprehension.

Hemiparysis: a muscle weakness on one side of the body.

Hemipeligia: a muscle paralysis on one side of the body.

Hemorrhage: A loss of blood from damaged blood vessels. A hemorrhage may be internal or external, and usually involves a dramatic and sudden loss of blood.

Infarct: Tissue death resulting from insufficient blood supply to the area.

Intensive Therapy: A treatment plan that includes a challenging routine of therapeutic activities used to bring about higher degrees of recovery.

Language Therapy: This is a branch of speech therapy (therapy for improving the act of speaking).

Language therapy centers on:

  • vocabulary
  • word associations
  • organizing thoughts and ideas clearly
  • correct syntax or word order
  • understanding the intended meaning of messages
  • and social language skills

Occupational Therapy (OT): Treatment that helps people return to ordinary tasks around home and at work.

Occupational therapists help patients by improving functional skills related to coordination of movement, fine motor skills, and self-help skills (such as dressing, bathing, and self-feeding). It may include the use of assistive devices to maximize physical potential.

Oral Apraxia: The inability to carry out planned oral movements that do not involve speech (like smiling or chewing).

Oral-Motor Therapy: The use of specialized exercises designed to improve and maintain the strength and coordination of the tongue, lip, and jaw muscles. With the right exercises you can increase you're oral motor coordination.

Physical Therapy (PT): The use of exercises and physical activities to help condition muscles and restore strength and movement.

Physical therapists will help patients regain functional abilities in walking, getting in/out of bed, strength, balance, gross motor skills, and endurance. It may also include the use of assistive devices to maximize physical potential.

Pragmatics: Pragmatics refers to how we use and interpret language. If you consider language a tool for communicating effectively, how we use that tool will result in different outcomes.

Body language, intonation, speech volume, word stress, staying on topic, choosing "appropriate" language for a given situation, and even using comparisons and visual images to illustrate a point are all tools for communicating - also known as, pragmatics.

Prognosis: The anticipated outcome of a disease or disorder; the likelihood of recovery or recurrence.

Receptive Aphasia: Also known as Wernicke's aphasia, this language disorder is characterized by fluent speech (although it typically has limited meaning), in conjunction with an inability to understand spoken or written language.

Receptive Skills: The ability to understand spoken or written language.

Site of Lesion: The precise location where damage has occurred.

Speech Therapy: The diagnosis and treatment of speech disorders. Treatment includes specific exercises designed to improve speech skills, language skills, and oral motor skills. Improve your communication skills with professional speech and language therapy on DVD!

Spontaneous Recovery: This occurs as damage to body tissues heals on its own. This type of recovery occurs without rehabilitation.

Thrombosis: A blood clot occurring in a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain.

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA): A temporary reduction in oxygen supply to the brain. It can cause brief symptoms such as dizziness, slurred speech and weakness or numbness on one side of the body. However, it is sometimes undiagnosed.

With TIA's the oxygen supply to the brain is restored quickly which normally resolves symptoms completely. It can be a warning sign for a future, more serious, stroke.

Verbal Apraxia: In the absence of muscle weakness or paralysis, a disturbance in the ability to plan and carry out oral muscle movements for speech.



For more information on Stroke and effectively treating speech and language disorders, please follow the links below:

Expressive Aphasia
Receptive Aphasia
Dysarthria
Verbal Apraxia
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