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Progressive nonfluent aphasia – causes, side effects and treatments at

Tuesday, June 19, 2018 by

Progressive nonfluent aphasia (PNFA) is one of the two main subtypes of primary progressive aphasia (PPA).

PPA is one of the two main subtypes of frontotemporal dementia (FTD), a progressive disorder of the brain. FTD usually affects behavior, language skills, and movement. Its other main subtype includes behavioral variant FTD.

A patient with aphasia may have trouble reading, writing, saying what they want to say, and, in some cases, understanding what other people say. It occurs when parts of the brain that are used for language processing sustain damage. In most individuals, these parts can be found on the left side of the brain.

Depending on the cause and various factors, aphasia can either be temporary or long-term. The condition affects at least a million Americans while around 180,000 are newly diagnosed yearly.

The first symptoms of PNFA may include a subtle change in the ability to speak. These symptoms usually manifest when talking in certain circumstances, like when an individual is calling someone or when they are speaking in public.

Known symptoms, risk factors for progressive nonfluent aphasia

The signs of progressive nonfluent aphasia usually include:

  • Difficulty finding the right word to say
  • Problems with reading/spelling
  • Pronouncing words incorrectly – Some patients may say the wrong word, especially if it sounds like the word they meant to say. One example is “aminal” instead of “animal.”
  • Saying the opposite word to the one they mean to say – Patients with PNFA may say “yes” when they mean “no.”
  • Slow, hesitant speech – It may take effort to speak, and some patients may stutter.
    This is also called apraxia of speech.
  • “Telegraphic” speech – This occurs when patients forget to say some words in sentences like “the” or “and.”
  • Using incorrect grammar/agrammatism – This occurs when individuals use the wrong tense when talking, like saying “happened” instead of “happen.”

Risk factors for PNFA may include:

  • Brain tumors
  • Dementia
  • Having a stroke
  • Infections
  • Injuries

Body systems harmed by progressive nonfluent aphasia

PNFA may cause the following complications:

  • Depression – Having trouble communicating can usually cause depression. Conditions like PNFA may also alter the chemistry of a person’s brain, and it can make them more vulnerable to depression.
  • Catastrophic reaction – Individuals with PNFA may experience repeated episodes referred to as a “catastrophic reaction.” These reactions occur when a person suddenly experiences overwhelming feelings of anger, depression, frustration, or a general feeling that they are unable to deal with their current situation. Signs of a catastrophic reaction include anxiety, aggression, crying or laughing uncontrollably, screaming, and stubbornness. A catastrophic reaction is usually triggered when a patient with aphasia suddenly becomes aware of their language problems.

Food items or nutrients that may prevent progressive nonfluent aphasia

The following foods or nutrients can help prevent PNFA or address its signs:

  • Beef
  • Carrot
  • Chicken
  • Egg
  • Fruits (e.g. grapefruit, pear, and pineapple)
  • Peanut butter
  • Rice
  • Toast (with real butter or honey)
  • Tuna
  • Vegetables
  • Wheat

A patient with PNFA must follow a healthy diet to help manage the symptoms of the condition. Ensure that an individual with PNFA avoids foods full of ingredients that can interfere with brain function like:

  • Added chemicals
  • Added colors
  • Flavoring agents
  • Preservatives
  • Toxins

A balanced aphasia diet can help promote proper brain functioning and improve the brain’s response system to language.

Treatments, management plans for progressive nonfluent aphasia

While there is no cure for aphasia or PNFA, treatment can help improve a patient’s language abilities.

Treatment options and management plans include:

  • Environmental modifications – Making changes to a patient’s environment can help address behavioral symptoms. These changes can include limiting access to credit cards if overspending is a problem.
  • Speech and language therapy – Individuals with PNFA can benefit from speech and language therapy. In the early stages of the condition, the use of alternative communication methods like electronic devices or picture books can be helpful.

Where to learn more


Progressive nonfluent aphasia is one of the two main subtypes of primary progressive aphasia.

The symptoms of PNFA usually include difficulty finding the right word to say and problems with reading/spelling.

PNFA may cause complications like depression and catastrophic reaction.

There is no for aphasia or PNFA. Treatment may include speech and language therapy.

Sources include: 1 2


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