Primary progressive aphasia

An atypical dementia characterized by a relentless dissolution of language with memory relatively preserved. The diagnosis of primary progressive aphasia is based on the presence of a progressive disorder of language, with preservation of other mental functions and of activities of daily living, for at least two years.

The features of primary progressive aphasia are distinct and different from those of typical Alzheimer’s disease. Different aspects of the activities of daily living are impaired and different sorts of intervention are required. Most people with primary progressive aphasia can take care of themselves, retain hobbies, and some can remain employed.

People with this disorder can learn sign language, and some find it useful to carry laminated cards that provide information to assist themselves and others in specific situations. Others benefit from voice synthesizers or personal computers that digitally store words and phrases. Evaluation by a speech therapist is useful for exploring alternative communication strategies.

Unlike patients with Alzheimer’s disease, who cannot retain new information in memory, patients with primary progressive aphasia can recall and evaluate recent events even though they may not be able to express their knowledge verbally. However, primary progressive aphasia is considered a type of dementia because it eventually does result ina gradual cognitive decline to the point where activities of daily living are compromised.

There is currently no effective drug or other treatment for this condition.

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