Aphasia is a problem in the brain that effects how a person talks, reads, writes, recognizes others and interacts with the world. In Primary Progressive Aphasia or PPA the parts of the brain responsible for speech and language have become damaged or have deteriorated.
Although the patient may gradually find difficulties reading, writing or talking, the patient’s intelligence is still intact. This condition gets worse over time until the person can no longer talk. The most common cause is a neurodegenerative disease such as frontotemporal lobar degeneration and Alzheimer’s disease. Just why people get neurodegenerative diseases are unknown. There is no cure. Patients can live years after diagnosis.
There are three main types of PPA: sematic variant PPA, nonfluent or agrammatic PPA, and logopenic variant PPA. They exhibit different symptoms.
Sematic variant PPA patients cannot remember the names of things. They may even say “things” or similar word to substitute for all the names they have forgotten. Eventually they may not understand many words spoken to them. Sometimes they also can no longer recognize faces.
Nonfluent or agrammatic variant PPA patients have trouble pronouncing words and trouble following long sentences. Eventually they lose the power to talk and often show symptoms similar to that of Parkinson’s disease.
Logopenic variant PPA patients also suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. The left posterior temporal cortex part of the brain shrinks or generates. Patients may still understand grammar or what is being told to them for years but talking becomes increasingly difficult and punctuated with long pauses between words. They cannot follow a long conversation or movie.
There is no known cure or even effective treatment for PPA. Patients must learn to express themselves in other ways such as through drawing or in music, since language based on words has now been taken from them.
Patients are advised to always carry medical identification bracelets and cards letting first responders know that in case of emergency that the patient suffers from PPA. Patients and their loved ones often learn a new language consisting of gestures and pantomime. Working with a speech therapist may help patients, their caretakers and their loved ones come up with such a language.