Primary Progressive Aphasia & Semantic Dementia

Published on: 2017/09/05


A brief introduction to primary progressive aphasia with special reference to semantic dementia.

Interest Category

Primary progressive aphasia (PPA), Semantic Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease

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What is primary progressive aphasia?

The main cause of Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA) is neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) or Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration (FTLD). PPA is a neurological syndrome, in which a person’s language capabilities become slowly and progressively impaired. PPA is caused by the deterioration of areas in brain tissue that are important for speech and language.

Symptoms of Primary progressive aphasia

The initial symptoms of PPA are language disorder and memory loss, which progresses to a total inability to speak. The symptoms differ from patient to patient. Generally, people with PPA can experience one or many of these symptoms:

  1. Slowed speech
  2. Low or deteriorated use of language
  3. Difficulty in finding words
  4. Abnormal sentence formation
  5. Difficulty in understanding a conversation
  6. Forgetting the meanings of simple words
  7. Memory loss
  8. Forgetting the names of objects or people
  9. Problems with reading, writing, and arithmetic calculations

Primary progressive aphasia – Types

PPA can be classified into semantic dementia, progressive nonfluent aphasia (PNFA) and Logopenic Progressive Aphasia (LPA).

Semantic Dementia – Problem with word-understanding

In this type of PPA, the person may seem to have forgotten the names of familiar objects or meanings of simple words

Non-fluent Aphasia – Problem-related to word-order or word-production

In this type, a person struggles to make a proper sentence, when they are grammatically complex. This results in shorter sentences.

Logopenic progressive aphasia – problem with word finding

People with LPA struggle to find a precise word and often go around to mention the word they are having trouble with. For example, instead of saying “grocer” they would say “a place where you can get bread”

PPA – Treatment

There are no tablets or medication for PPA as of yet. Some physicians prescribe drugs that are specific for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), as there is a probability of these patients suffering from the AD as well. Some others prescribe medicines to manage depression, agitation, and anxiety, all of which are the behavioral symptoms that may occur in the later stage of PPA.

Speech therapy could help the patients with PPA to improve their ability to communicate. The main focus of the speech therapy may vary with patients depending on their type of PPA. A speech therapist will evaluate the patient before providing the therapy to determine the appropriate treatment.

Read moreIntroduction to diagnosis of Primary Progressive Aphasia & Semantic Dementia, a case study on PPA by Dr. Porselvi

Is PPA inherited?

In some cases, PPA is caused by genetic mutations. It is mostly caused by a combination of genetic changes and environmental factors. There is a 50% chance to inherit PPA and people who have had learning disabilities are most likely to develop PPA. (reference link)