What is Primary Progressive Aphasia and what is the Prognosis?

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, but 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 whilst 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, and 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.


Sources :

Primary progressive aphasia: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/primary-progressive-aphasia/DS00750/DSECTION=coping-and-support
Primary progressive aphasia: http://www.alzheimer-europe.org/Dementia/Other-forms-of-dementia/Neuro-Degenerative-Diseases/Fronto-Temporal-Degeneration/Primary-Progressive-Aphasia-PPA

About Alexander Burgemeester

One Response to “What is Primary Progressive Aphasia and what is the Prognosis?”

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  1. anne hunter says:

    I was a High School French teacher teaching IB French and with a Master’s Degree in Language at Middlebury College in Vermont. At first, I was just stressed…which I detined because I loved what I did as a profession. Then, they found I was negative B12. Went to Cleveland Clinic and diagnosed. Later, I developed a brain virus. At first, I was put in the psych ward until the doctors at OSU hospital decided it was a medical problem. With the help of the information from the C.Clinic, the head doctor and surgery gave me surgery. Today, I have total control of English, French, reading, writing and speaking with proficiency. The language skills I gained helped me to realize what I needed to do and the medicines to take. It can add to depression and later, diagnosed as manic-depressive. I have a lovely and happy life and take the medicines indicated. I learn through google and good advice, I have learned just the necessary medicines that help my life and relationship with friends and family. A person needs to take their medical problems on their own or someone who cares to relate well with doctors to express the problems.

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