What is frontotemporal dementia?
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is caused by degeneration of the frontal lobe of the brain, possibly extending to the temporal lobe, and tends to occur at a younger age (40-70) than most other forms of dementia. It resembles Alzheimer’s disease in that it is a degenerative disease that is currently irreversible and has no cure. Unlike Alzheimer’s, frontotemporal dementia affects only specific parts of the brain rather than the entire brain.
Frontotemporal dementia can be divided into three sub-types: Pick’s disease, primary progressive aphasia, and semantic dementia. FTD has a strong genetic component and often runs in families. Once thought to be rare, it is now estimated that 10-15% of all dementia cases are FTD. However, in those under the age of 65, FTD could be responsible for up to 50% of dementia cases.
Symptoms of frontotemporal dementia
The frontal and temporal lobes of the brain are associated with personality and behaviour, but the damage is not consistent among all patients so the symptoms can vary quite widely from one person to another. Unlike some other forms of dementia, spatial skills and memory often remain intact, at least until the final stages of the disease.
Memory and dealing with time are not typically found in early stages of frontotemporal dementia, but may become an issue as it progresses. This allows doctors to differentiate between Alzheimer’s and frontotemporal dementia, as the former typically begins with memory issues and the latter typically begins with behavioural issues. Symptoms can usually be divided into two classes:
- Behavioural – changes in behaviour, becoming withdrawn or disinhibited, lethargy, inappropriate comments or acts (e.g., sexual advances and stealing), loss of interest in hygiene, overeating, distractability, blunted emotions, changes in food preferences, and incontinence.
- Speech – can range from total loss to speaking less or having difficulty speaking, difficulty finding right words, difficulty sustaining train of thought, and difficulty writing and reading.
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