Senior Living Care Blog

Characteristics of Frontotemporal Dementia

Posted by Joe Gilmore on Jan 10, 2019 11:00:00 AM

Frontotemporal dementia is an umbrella term that is used to encompass multiple types of dementia that affect the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. The frontal and temporal lobes in the brain are commonly associated with personality, behavior, and language. When affected by FTD, people will see portions of these two lobes shrink and atrophy. Signs and symptoms carry depending on each case and person.


According to the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration, the condition affects about 50,000 to 60,000 Americans and represents about 10 to 20 percent of all dementia cases. FTD normally occurs in people who are 50 to 60 years old, younger than most Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis. Because the onset of FTD is younger than most other forms of dementia, it is often misdiagnosed as a psychiatric or movement disorder such as Parkinson’s disease.


Like most forms of dementia, there is no way to prevent or reverse the damage caused by FTD. However, there are certain medications and lifestyle changes that can be implemented to relieve some of the symptoms commonly associated with the disease. Furthermore, there is research and clinical trials being conducted to test treatment options.



What is Frontotemporal Dementia?

A doctors laptop used to take notes on a patient who has dementia

There are multiple forms of frontotemporal dementia (FTD), each with their own causes and symptoms. FTD takes effect when nerve cell damage to the frontal and temporal regions of the brain leads to loss of function.


The frontal lobe is the largest of the four main regions of the brain. This brain region contains the most dopamine neurons and is associated with mood, personality, self-awareness, social and moral reasoning. When this part of the brain is affected by something like FTD, it can cause changes in social interactions and mood.


The temporal lobe is located on the sides of the brain and is crucial in many essential activities. It is necessary for the processing of memory, language, and emotion.



According to the Alzheimer’s Association, FTD cases are inherited in about a third of all cases. This seems to be the only known cause of FTD, there are no known risk factors except for family history.



Symptoms can vary so much depending on each type of FTD and each personal situation, there is not one specific path that those affected will go through. However, because the frontal and temporal lobes affect personality, behavior, and language symptoms will generally affect those aspects. Some people affected by FTD will undergo dramatic changes in personality and can become socially inappropriate, impulsive, or emotionally in different while others may lose their ability to use language.


Some other symptoms can include:

  • Loss of empathy and interpersonal skills
  • Lack of judgement
  • Apathy
  • Repetitive compulsive behavior
  • Tremors
  • Muscle weakness
  • Poor coordination and more


Differences between Alzheimer's and FTD

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia and, because of this, it is normal for people to want to compare Alzheimer’s with other forms of dementia like FTD. While they are different types of dementia and affect things like behavior and memory, they are still very different from each other.


One of the clearest differences between the two is that FTD generally occurs earlier in life while Alzheimer’s becomes more common with age. Another major difference is that language problems are much more characteristic of FTD than Alzheimer’s.



As mentioned before, there is no cure for dementia, including FTD, and there is nothing to reverse the symptoms. The only type of treatment that can be used is to alleviate some of the symptoms of the disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, antidepressants and anti-psychotics can be used to reduce behavioral problems and that are associated with FTD.



Types of Frontotemporal Dementia

There are about six types of different forms of FTD, the two most common forms are behavioral-variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) and primary progressive aphasia (PPA).


Behavioral-Variant Frontotemporal Dementia

This is the most common form of FTD and, as the name suggests, behavioral disinhibition is the hallmark feature of bvFTD. Socially inappropriate behavior like inappropriate touching of strangers and violation of personal space are characteristic of this type of FTD. Impulsivity and rash, careless actions are also common. Other behavioral symptoms include loss of empathy, changes in eating habits and


Primary Progressive Aphasia

PPA seems to be the second most common type of FTD and symptoms for the condition begin gradually and generally occur before the age of 65. People with PPA can lose the ability to speak and write, and can eventually lose the ability to understand written or spoken language entirely. While bvFTD generally deals with behavioral issues, PPA is a type of FTD that primarily affects language.


Progressive Supranuclear Palsy

PSP is another form of FTD that affects movement, control of walking, balance and speech. Like the other forms of FTD, the disease is a result of nerve cell damage in the brain. The disease normally gets worse over time. One of the common signs of the disease is an inability to aim and move the eyes properly, people affected can experience blurring of vision as well.



In Conclusion

Frontotemporal dementia is the second most common form of dementia behind Alzheimer’s. FTD is a form of dementia that affects the frontal and temporal portions of the brain. These two regions of the brain are responsible for behavior, temperament, and language, when affected people can lost social interaction skills, and ability to read, write, and understand language. Like most forms of dementia, there is no cure and the causes aren’t known. However, genetics are known to be a factor that can increase the likelihood of getting the disease. If the FTD becomes severe enough, it can interfere with daily tasks and make living independently more difficult.


Overall, living independently becomes much harder as we begin to age. It may be beneficial to look into hiring a caregiver or looking into assisted living facilities if you believe that you or a loved one is struggling with their current living situation. At Landmark Senior Living, we have the medical care and social activities that can make the later years for your loved one both safe and enjoyable.



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Topics: dementia care

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