Definition

What is frontotemporal dementia?

Frontotemporal dementia (frontotemporal lobar degeneration) is an umbrella term for a diverse group of uncommon disorders that primarily affect the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain — the areas generally associated with personality, behavior and language.

In frontotemporal dementia, portions of these lobes shrink (atrophy). Signs and symptoms vary, depending upon the portion of the brain affected.

Some people with frontotemporal dementia undergo dramatic changes in their personality and become socially inappropriate, impulsive or emotionally indifferent, while others lose the ability to use language.

Frontotemporal dementia is often misdiagnosed as a psychiatric problem or as Alzheimer’s disease. But frontotemporal dementia tends to occur at a younger age than does Alzheimer’s disease, generally between the ages of 40 and 45.

How common is frontotemporal dementia?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of frontotemporal dementia?

The common symptoms of frontotemporal dementia are:

The symptoms of frontotemporal dementia depend on the areas of the brain affected. Most symptoms can be divided into one of two categories: behavior or language.

Common behavioral symptoms of frontotemporal dementia include:

  • Inappropriate actions
  • Apathy, or lack of interest or enthusiasm in activities
  • Lack of inhibition or restraint
  • Neglect of personal hygiene and care
  • Compulsive behavior

Common language-related symptoms of frontotemporal dementia include:

  • Difficulty speaking or understanding speech
  • Language recall problems
  • Loss of reading and writing skills
  • Difficulty with social interactions

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes frontotemporal dementia?

Researchers have not identified a single cause for this type of dementia, but they have some ideas. Some people’s brains develop abnormal protein structures, called Pick bodies.

Researchers have also identified abnormal proteins that may play a role. These proteins, found in brain cells of individuals who died with dementia, may affect how the brain works. Researchers don’t know why these proteins develop or how to prevent them.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for frontotemporal dementia?

Frontotemporal dementia has one known risk factor: genetics. Scientists have found several genes related to the disease. If one of your family members is diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, you have a greater risk.

However, not everyone with a family history will develop a problem. It’s also estimated that more than half of the individuals diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia don’t have a family history associated with the disease.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is frontotemporal dementia diagnosed?

No single test can identify frontotemporal dementia, so doctors attempt to identify certain characteristic features while excluding other possible causes.

The disorder can be especially challenging to diagnose in the early stages, as symptoms of frontotemporal dementia often overlap with those of other conditions.

Blood tests

To see if your symptoms are being caused by a different condition, such as liver or kidney disease, your doctor may order blood tests.

Neuropsychological testing

Sometimes doctors undertake a more extensive assessment of reasoning and memory skills. This type of testing is especially helpful in determining the type of dementia at an early stage.

Brain scans

By looking at images of the brain, doctors may be able to pinpoint any visible abnormalities — such as clots, bleeding or tumors — that may be causing signs and symptoms.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An MRI machine uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to produce detailed images of your brain.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET). PET scans use a small amount of low-dose radioactive material that’s injected into a vein to help visualize blood sugar metabolism in the brain, which can help identify frontal or temporal lobe brain abnormalities.

How is frontotemporal dementia treated?

Frontotemporal dementia can’t be cured. There is no effective way to slow its progression. Treatment involves managing the symptoms.

Medications

  • Some types of antidepressants, such as trazodone, may reduce the behavioral problems associated with frontotemporal dementia. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) — such as sertraline (Zoloft) or fluvoxamine (Luvox) — also have been effective in some people.
  • Antipsychotic medications, such as olanzapine (Zyprexa) or quetiapine (Seroquel), are sometimes used to combat the behavioral problems of frontotemporal dementia.

However, these medications must be used with caution because the side effects include an increased risk of death in dementia patients.

Therapy

People experiencing language difficulties may benefit from speech therapy to learn alternate strategies for communication.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage frontotemporal dementia?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with frontotemporal dementia:

Medication can be effective for treating dementia, but lifestyle treatments can help, too. Helping people find a comfortable environment can help them cope with the symptoms of dementia.

Environment is important. Maintaining an environment that doesn’t upset someone is vital. Make sure your home is well-lit and has minimal noise. People with behavior problems need to be in environments that are familiar. They may also need to avoid large crowds.

People with speech problems may need to be in environments where communication is easier. They may wish to keep tools for communicating, like a pen and paper, with them all the time.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: October 2, 2017 | Last Modified: October 2, 2017

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