The primary progressive aphasias are a heterogeneous group of focal 'language-led' dementias that pose substantial challenges for diagnosis and management. Here we present a clinical approach to the progressive aphasias, based on our experience of these disorders and directed at non-specialists. We first outline a framework for assessing language, tailored to the common presentations of progressive aphasia. We then consider the defining features of the canonical progressive nonfluent, semantic and logopenic aphasic syndromes, including 'clinical pearls' that we have found diagnostically useful and neuroanatomical and other key associations of each syndrome. We review potential diagnostic pitfalls and problematic presentations not well captured by conventional classifications and propose a diagnostic 'roadmap'. After outlining principles of management, we conclude with a prospect for future progress in these diseases, emphasising generic information processing deficits and novel pathophysiological biomarkers.
Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Frontotemporal dementia; Logopenic aphasia; Primary progressive aphasia; Semantic dementia.