Frontotemporal Dementia

What is Frontotemporal Dementia?

Frontotemporal dementia is a general term of cognitive disorders affecting the temporal and frontal lobes, the areas of the brain linked with language, behavior, and personality. As with other forms of dementia, the focus with treatment is on minimizing presented symptoms and retaining quality of life.

Causes

The exact cause of FTD isn’t known. Research suggests brain cell activity and nerve functioning may be affected by certain proteins that can alter how messages are transmitted between cells. With FTD, the temporal (behind the ears) and frontal (behind the forehead) lobes physically shrink in size and nerve cells are progressively lost.

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What are the Symptoms of Frontotemporal Dementia?

Sometimes referred to as Pick’s disease (after the doctor who discovered it), frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is unique in that it often appears earlier in life than other forms of dementia, with more than half of all occurrences happening between the mid-to-late forties and early sixties. FTD symptoms often appear slowly over time as processes within the two affected area of the brain continue to be altered.

Symptoms include

  • Dramatic personality changes
  • General indifference in attitude
  • Difficulty speaking or verbalizing feelings
  • Inappropriate actions or words

Frontotemporal Dementia Causes

Frontotemporal dementia is caused by the shrinking of the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. The condition typically does not have known causes with the exception of family history. Currently, researchers are studying the link between an accumulation of specific protein types in the brain, and the frontal and temporal lobes shrinking. More than half of frontotemporal dementia cases do not have a family history of dementia. However, in a third of all cases, it is inherited and can be traced through family history.

How is Frontotemporal Dementia Treated?

Medications may help with anxiety, agitation, and mood issues. Regular exercise and muscle strengthening sometimes helps with balance and coordination problems.

There is no cure for dementia of this nature. With proactive management and ongoing therapeutic efforts, progression of symptoms may be slowed. Neurologists, speech pathologists, and physical therapists may be able to help with symptom management. Most patients with FTD reach a point where constant care and supervision is necessary for personal safety reasons.

Frontotemporal Dementia Prevention

Frontotemporal dementia is typically not diagnosed until shrinking of the lobes is discovered. There is no treatment that specifically cures frontotemporal dementia or slows its progression. However, all treatments currently recommended for this condition are to treat symptoms of the disease or to support patients in adjusting their lifestyles to the changes this disease creates. This can include prescribing medications to reduce irritability, agitation and/or depression in patients. Antidepressents and antipsychotics are the most common medications prescribed, but patients should be closely monitored to prevent adverse reactions such as an increased risk of death in dementia patients.

Frontotemporal dementia is typically diagnosed through close monitoring by physicians. It is often difficult to diagnose because it is an uncommon form of dementia. Due to the fact that no single test can independently diagnose this condition, multiple tests are required. This can include diagnostic tests such as brain scans like MRIs, blood tests or through glucose monitoring exams. However, it is essential for patients suspected to have this disease to be under the supervision of a physician familiar with these types of neurological diseases to ensure early detection. Most patients with this condition are diagnosed between their 40s through their early 60s.

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Last Reviewed:
September 21, 2016
Last Updated:
December 22, 2017