When Gerstmann syndrome is a disorder that is associated with a variety of cognitive impairment. However, the intelligence of the people concerned is not reduced. In the context of Gerstmann’s syndrome, even simple everyday tasks can pose a problem for patients.
What is Gerstmann Syndrome?
The Gerstmann syndrome encompasses an extensive complex of various complaints and symptoms. The first person to describe the phenomenon is Gerstmann, who analyzed the disease in 1924. Typical signs of Gerstmann syndrome are, for example, acalculia, i.e. a weakness in numeracy despite average intelligence.
In addition, the affected people suffer from agraphia in many cases. This means that they find it difficult to write, even though there are no motor disorders or a decrease in intelligence. Numerous patients with Gerstmann’s syndrome also show a so-called left-right weakness, which means that they often confuse the two directions or terms in everyday life.
Another typical symptom of Gerstmann’s syndrome is finger and toe agnosia. In this context, people have problems recognizing or naming their toes and fingers. Under certain circumstances, the Gerstmann syndrome is referred to by the synonymous term angularis syndrome.
However, strictly speaking, this term is a more narrowly defined disease. For this reason, the synonymous use of the terms has been criticized by some medical professionals. In the majority of cases, the symptoms of Gerstmann’s syndrome are related to other diseases.
Usually these are symptoms that occur together with other neurological impairments. Such disorders are possible, for example, through damage to the brain through accidents or other causes. The typical symptoms of Gerstmann’s syndrome are also possible after a stroke. In principle, an isolated occurrence of Gerstmann syndrome is rare.
For this reason, it is still under discussion whether Gerstmann syndrome is a disorder of its own that is suitable as the sole diagnosis. Most of the time, Gerstmann’s syndrome does not occur in its pure form, i.e. without neurological disorders as well as apraxia and acalculia. In some cases, there are also other potential causes for the typical complaints, for example impairment of working memory.
The causes of the development of Gerstmann syndrome are primarily due to damage (medical term: lesions) to the brain. For example, a stroke triggers the characteristic symptoms of Gerstmann’s syndrome in some cases.
This is particularly the case if the angular or supramarginal gyrus is affected by the damage in the course of a stroke. Other potential causes of Gerstmann syndrome are brain injuries or tumors.
Symptoms, ailments & signs
The typical symptoms and complaints of Gerstmann’s syndrome usually give the impression at first glance that the person concerned is suffering from a reduced intelligence. However, this is actually not the case because the majority of patients with Gerstmann’s syndrome have an average high intelligence quotient.
Characteristics of Gerstmann’s syndrome are, for example, problems with differentiating and naming the toes and fingers. For example, the affected people cannot immediately distinguish the ring finger from the index finger and find the right term for it. The same applies to the right and left directions, which the patient often confuses with each other on both a linguistic and motor level.
In addition, there are complaints such as acalculia and agraphy, i.e. problems with arithmetic and writing. Both symptoms show up without any cognitive or motoric reasons being apparent.
If the characteristic symptoms and complaints of Gerstmann’s syndrome increase and impair the quality of life of those affected, it is advisable to consult a doctor. First of all, the family doctor is suitable as a contact person. The patient may be referred to a neurologist. The first step in making the diagnosis is the anamnesis.
All complaints are discussed in this conversation. In addition, the respective patient describes their living conditions as well as any previous illnesses or accidents. For example, a recent stroke suggests Gerstmann syndrome.
After the discussion, various tests are usually done to diagnose Gerstmann syndrome. A suspected diagnosis is already made based on the characteristics described. If the patient suffers from the typical symptoms without being mentally disabled or impaired in his intelligence, the presence of Gerstmann syndrome is relatively likely. A differential diagnosis must also be carried out. Similar diseases are, for example, the Developmental Gerstmann’s Syndrome or the Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker Syndrome.
The Gerstmann syndrome extremely reduces the patient’s quality of life and makes everyday life very difficult. As a rule, the person concerned is dependent on the help of other people in everyday life and can no longer do a large number of tasks themselves. Above all, the cognitive abilities are limited.
The intelligence is not impaired by the Gerstmann syndrome, so that there is no retardation. However, it is not uncommon for psychological complaints and complications to occur due to the restrictions. These psychological complaints can also affect the parents and relatives of the patient. In most cases, there are problems with speaking and thinking, so that, for example, arithmetic with numbers or naming certain objects cannot be carried out easily.
Writing can also be restricted. In most cases, a causal therapy for Gerstmann syndrome is not possible. For this reason, only symptoms are treated. This does not lead to further complications and can often limit the symptoms. The patient’s quality of life is not reduced by Gerstmann syndrome. If Gerstmann syndrome should have occurred after a stroke, the further course of the disease also depends on the causes and consequences of the stroke.
When should you go to the doctor?
In the case of Gerstmann syndrome, a doctor must be consulted in any case. This can prevent further complications in adulthood. A doctor should be consulted if the child suffers from significantly reduced intelligence due to Gerstmann syndrome. This complaint can be diagnosed in kindergarten or school. The earlier Gerstmann syndrome is diagnosed and treated, the higher the chances of a positive course of the disease.
In particular, simple activities such as naming left and right or naming individual fingers can cause difficulties for those affected. If these symptoms occur, a doctor must be consulted. The right contact person is the general practitioner or a pediatrician. However, further treatment of Gerstmann’s syndrome is carried out by a neurologist. Since the syndrome can in some cases also lead to psychological complaints in the children or in the parents, psychological treatment should also be carried out.
Treatment & Therapy
As part of therapy for Gerstmann’s syndrome, the focus is on treating or eliminating the underlying disease or cause. Because the individually occurring complaints are also strongly dependent on the reasons for their development. When a person suffers a stroke, the symptoms usually become noticeable very quickly.
However, there is a possibility that the symptoms of the disease will regress, especially if the patient is receiving regular occupational therapy. Speech therapy may also make sense and will alleviate the symptoms over time.
Outlook & forecast
The prognosis of Gerstmann syndrome depends on the problems or disorders present. The syndrome is not a disease in its own right and is therefore diagnosed as the result of another irregularity. As a result, the treatment plan is not aimed at curing Gerstmann’s syndrome, but rather at treating the original disease.
The cognitive performance is reduced in the syndrome. You will be supported in various and individually compiled funding measures. This leads to a relief of the discomfort and at the same time an improvement of the well-being. There is no cure for a large number of the underlying diseases.
As a result, the Gerstmann syndrome cannot be free of symptoms. In many cases, despite all efforts, the person affected is dependent on daily support and care in everyday life. Often it is not possible to cope with the tasks without help.
The overall situation can lead to further secondary illnesses. Mental disorders are often diagnosed as a result of a drastic change in lifestyle. If Gerstmann’s syndrome occurs as an accompanying symptom of a stroke, patients suffer not only cognitive but also motor impairments, which are usually difficult to process. Depending on the extent of the underlying disease, the average life expectancy can also be significantly reduced.
Measures for the direct prevention of Gerstmann’s syndrome do not exist, as the disorder is always the result of another underlying disease or other cause. Adequate therapy often shows good results.
The options for follow-up care are in most cases very limited in Gerstmann syndrome. The person concerned is primarily dependent on direct medical treatment by a doctor so that further complications can be prevented. Self-healing does not occur in this disease, so treatment is always necessary.
The options for treatment are very limited and are usually based on the exact characteristics and nature of the complaints. If a stroke has occurred in Gerstmann’s syndrome, a complete cure is usually no longer possible. Those affected are dependent on the support and care of relatives and friends in order to alleviate the symptoms and to enable a proper everyday life.
Physiotherapy can also alleviate some of the symptoms. Many of the exercises from this treatment can also be performed in your own home to accelerate healing. Contact with other sick people can also be very useful. The life expectancy of the person affected may be reduced by Gerstmann syndrome. Empathetic conversations with your own family are often very useful.
You can do that yourself
In many cases with Gerstmann syndrome, those affected depend on the help of other people in their everyday lives. Above all, loving care by friends and relatives can have a very positive effect on the course of the disease.
However, the syndrome makes many families dependent on caregivers. In most cases, care includes all aspects of everyday life, as those affected suffer from paralysis and other cognitive disorders. You are also dependent on regular occupational therapy, whereby the exercises can often be repeated at home. Speech therapy is also often helpful and can also be accompanied by exercises at home. However, direct and causal treatment of Gerstmann’s syndrome is not possible.
If the syndrome also leads to psychological complaints or depression, a visit to a psychologist is suitable. Conversations with your own partner, family or friends can also help here. Contact with other sufferers of Gerstmann syndrome also has a positive effect on the course and can contribute to the exchange of information. Further treatment and the course of Gerstmann’s syndrome depend very much on the underlying disease.