Primary progressive aphasia is a neurological disorder that is primarily characterized by a deterioration of language skills. Unlike many other forms of progressive dementia, primary progressive aphasia patients can usually continue taking care of themselves, working, and enjoying a fulfilling life for many years following the first onset of symptoms.
If you, a relative or friend has been diagnosed with the condition, what is the primary progressive aphasia prognosis?
Primary progressive aphasia is one of several types of dementia that affect the frontal temporal lobes of the brain and the disease is very closely related to Alzheimer’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies and vascular dementia.
It is a rare disease caused by shrinkage or atrophy of the language centers in the brain and it can sometimes be linked to Alzheimer’s or a brain tumor.
What are the Symptoms of Primary Progressive Aphasia?
In the early stages, the decline of language function is very gradual and although the disease can affect different people in a number of different ways, one of the first signs of the disease is a problem with speaking.
Patients might have difficulties finding the right word in a sentence while language comprehension remains unaffected, but over time, symptoms will worsen and syntax and comprehension will begin to suffer.
Typical symptoms of primary progressive aphasia include:
- Problems naming objects
- Using the wrong tenses, verbs and pronouns in sentences
- Serious spelling errors
- Problems understanding the meaning of words
- During conversations, the patient might frequently pause because they cannot think of the correct word to use, although this might depend on the level of conversation.
Some patients have less of a problem with written language, but experience major difficulties with speech.
Although the decline of language skills is often relatively slow and the patient can continue to enjoy a good quality of life for several years, symptoms will eventually deteriorate to the point where the ability to speak, read, write, and understand language is lost and communication becomes impossible.
As a result, many patients with progressive aphasia end up mute and unable to communicate with caregivers.
What is the Primary Progressive Aphasia Prognosis?
Unlike other forms of dementia, apart from language difficulties other faculties will remain relatively unaffected by the disease until it reaches an advanced stage. Whereas patients suffering from the effects of Alzheimer’s will show a deterioration of memory and personality, patients showing symptoms of primary progressive aphasia will retain their other faculties for much longer.
One of the biggest problems for patients suffering from primary progressive aphasia is their progressive loss of communications skills.
Speech therapy is unlikely to help, although some patients have benefited from being taught different ways to communicate such as non verbal techniques, for example pointing to picture cards. Computers can also be an invaluable aid in communicating for patients with primary progressive aphasia.
Communicating with a patient suffering from primary progressive aphasia can be incredibly frustrating from family and friends, but with the right approach, it is possible to find alternative ways of communicating that can make life a little easier.