pri•ma•ry pro•gres•sive apha•sia | prahy-mer-ee pruhgres-iv uhfey-zhuh

Primary progressive aphasia, or PPA, is a neurological condition where the speech and language parts of the brain are slowly damaged over time. Unlike the classic types of aphasia, a person with PPA can experience a gradual loss of their ability to speak, read, write, or comprehend what others say as the condition progresses.

How Common Is Primary Progressive Aphasia?

While aphasia in general is a relatively common impairment, the current understanding of PPA specifically is that it is uncommon. Though PPA is considered rare, it is possible that many people go undiagnosed due to unfamiliarity surrounding the condition. As PPA progresses gradually, it’s also possible that the subtlety during the onset of the condition means those with it don’t seek medical help.

Diagnosing Primary Progressive Aphasia

PPA can be diagnosed by a doctor, often with the support of a speech-language pathologist (SLP). That healthcare professional would look for the criteria of PPA through a number of examinations. Examinations might include the following:

  • Medical and Family History Evaluation
  • Speech and Language Evaluation
  • Neurological and Neuropsychological Examination
  • Brain Imaging

Problems with speech and language can be caused by a number of nondegenerative disorders, so a medical examination will likely look into other possible causes, such as stroke or traumatic brain injury. Since PPA occurs gradually over time, small changes in your day-to-day function might not be apparent. If you suspect you have PPA, talk to your doctor.

Can Primary Progressive Aphasia Be Prevented?

It’s not uncommon to wonder whether or not you could have done something to prevent a condition like PPA. Unfortunately, there are no known preventative treatments for PPA. The shrinking in the affected brain regions is due to the presence of abnormal proteins, which are commonly found in forms of dementia. The risk factors for PPA include medical history of genetic mutations as well as learning disabilities.

What Are The Symptoms of Primary Progressive Aphasia?

As PPA progresses over time, your symptoms will likely increase in severity. The early symptoms of PPA align with the mild symptoms of most aphasia types, while the later stage aligns with severe aphasia symptoms.

Mild (early-stage) PPA:

  • Trouble understanding long messages
  • Delayed understanding and responding to spoken messages
  • Difficulty finding words to express or explain an idea
  • Putting words in the wrong order, or substituting the wrong word/part of a word when talking. For example, calling a “table” a “cup”
  • Difficulty responding to questions on the spot

Severe (late-stage) PPA:

  • Trouble understanding spoken messages
  • Unreliability in responding to “yes and no” questions
  • Little to no aware of own errors
  • Using a combination of words and jargon that is not understood by others
  • Little or no speech

Can You Recover From Primary Progressive Aphasia?

If you’ve been diagnosed with PPA, you’ll likely want to know if and when you’ll get better. The unfortunate reality is that PPA cannot be cured. However, you may be able to improve or maintain your ability to communicate through some therapies. Every person is different. Working with a speech-language pathologist is a common method that can help to manage the condition and potentially slow the progression of some PPA symptoms.

Losing your ability to communicate can be incredibly difficult. It’s important to take care of yourself and talk to a medical professional if you feel anxious or depressed, as these are treatable problems.

Improving Your Communication and Speech With An AAC Device

Lingraphica AAC devices are designed to improve communication for people who have conditions like PPA. The device can help you maintain communication, practice your speech, and preserve your voice.

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