Frontotemporal Dementia: Types, Symptoms, & Causes

An estimated 50,000 to 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia (FTD). This cognitive disease is most common in adults aged 40 to 65 but can occur in younger and older adults. 

The best way to confront a disease like this is to understand its scope. Keep reading to learn about the causes, symptoms, and diagnosis of FTD along with its treatment options.

An Overview of Frontotemporal Dementia

FTD is a progressive neurological disorder that affects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. The frontal lobe manages executive function—including planning, organization, and impulse control—while the temporal lobe helps process language, speech comprehension, and emotion.

There are three subtypes of frontotemporal dementia:

  • Behavioral variant: Someone with this FTD subtype will experience changes in their personality, language, social skills, and behavior.
  • Primary progressive aphasia: Someone with this FTD subtype will experience a decline in fluency when speaking.
  • Semantic variant: Someone with this FTD subtype will experience a decline in semantic memory, including the ability to understand vocabulary and general knowledge.Genetics

What Causes Frontotemporal Dementia?

When abnormal amounts or forms of proteins collect in the brain, brain cells die. This brain cell death causes the frontal and temporal lobes—which sit at the front and sides of the brain—to degenerate rapidly. While this brain damage may be caused by conditions like a stroke, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or another type of dementia, most cases don’t have a traceable cause.

3 Common Frontotemporal Dementia Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of FTD generally don’t align with those associated with Alzheimer’s disease because damage to different areas in the brain produces different symptoms. FTD is primarily characterized by changes in:

  • Behavior: Family and friends notice unusual changes in their loved one’s personality or behavior. Someone with FTD may become more impulsive, apathetic, or disinhibited.
  • Speech & language: This symptom can include difficulty finding the right words, decreased vocabulary, trouble with grammar and syntax, or difficulty understanding verbal communication.
  • Motor skills: FTD is characterized by the deterioration of basic motor skills—such as difficulty walking and swallowing.

Diagnosing Frontotemporal Dementia

dementia patient & caretaker

Doctors typically follow three steps in the FTD diagnosis process:

  1. Review a patient’s family history to determine whether FTD is hereditary.
  2. Take MRI scans to identify brain atrophy or shrinkage, which are common signs of the disease.
  3. Use tests that measure cognitive functions, like memory and attention span, to identify any changes over time.

Since FTD patients often can’t recognize their symptoms, doctors may also want to interview family members or close friends about symptoms they’ve observed in their loved ones.

How To Treat Frontotemporal Dementia

Just like other forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, FTD cannot be cured or prevented. However, treatments such as medications, speech therapy, and physical therapy can help minimize symptoms.

Illinois’ Compassionate Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care Community

If a loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, the memory care experts at Terra Vista are here to walk alongside them. Our all-inclusive memory care assisted living community focuses on providing holistic memory care while fostering personal connections with residents. 

Whether you’re interested in scheduling a long-term stay or need short-term respite memory care services, Terra Vista is here to help. Schedule a dementia care consultation today to get your loved one the professional care they need.

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