What is frontotemporal dementia?
Dementia that affects the temporal and frontal lobes of your brain is called frontotemporal dementia (FTD).
The first is FTD. It most commonly affects people between 45 and 60 years of age. However, it often occurs before Alzheimer’s. A variety of factors can contribute to early dementia, including an unbalanced diet and a lack of exercise. It is more common for those who get it to still be working, have children, and provide for their families.
Dementia causes serious cognitive impairment. It makes daily tasks such as driving, working and cooking more difficult. Those who suffer from frontotemporal dementia have difficulty communicating, making decisions and making judgments.
FTD is called many different things by doctors, including:
- Pick’s disease
- Frontal dementia
- Frontotemporal lobar degeneration
- Behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia
- Primary progressive aphasia
- Semantic dementia
- Progressive nonfluent aphasia
It isn’t the same as Alzheimer’s. The symptoms don’t include memory loss. However, you may act differently or behave strangely. It may be difficult for you to stay motivated or focused. You may have a change in personality. You may eventually have difficulty walking, talking, planning activities, working, and taking care of yourself.
It will be easier to handle the changes if you and your family know what to expect.
There are two broad types of Frontotemporal dementia:
- Behavioural variant FTD: Problems with behaviour and personality are mainly caused by brain damage to the frontal lobes. Our behaviour and emotion are controlled by these lobes behind the forehead. They are involved in presenting information to our brains. As we plan and solve problems, they also allow us to focus for long enough to complete a task.
- Primary progressive aphasia (PPA): A language problem can occur when the temporal lobes, located on either side of the head closest to the ears, are damaged. These parts are responsible for many functions. Left temporal lobe functions primarily in storing words and object names. Many people can recognize familiar faces and objects thanks to the right temporal lobe.
Symptoms of FTD include changes to the personality, a change in behavior, and a change in ability to communicate.
The symptoms of FTD are less severe than those of more common dementias. As an example, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, day-to-day memory is often affected by the disease. Many people who have FTD can still recall recent events in their early stages.
Related: Lewy Body Dementia
Frontotemporal dementia symptoms
It’s difficult to predict which one you’ll have first. Damage in the brain can start at different spots. Initially, you might have trouble managing your money if the stroke impacts your brain’s decision-making center. There may be a connection between your emotions and objects in your brain. This could make you unable to recognize danger at a glance.
There are other three main types of FTD:
- Frontal variant: This affects your personality and behavior.
- Progressive nonfluent primary progressive aphasia: This affects your ability to speak.
- Semantic variant primary progressive aphasia: Impairs the ability to understand or use language.
You may not realize how strange you are acting until your family notices. There are several other symptoms that may accompany FTD:
- Emotional problems
- Low level of interest
- Refuses to interact with others
As FTD affects more regions of your brain, these symptoms tend to get worse over time.
Frontotemporal dementia causes and risk factors
FTD is not well understood by scientists. Nerve cells die first in the front and sides of the brain, where they make up two of the brain’s “lobes.” When this happens, the lobes begin to shrink.
Genetics may be involved in FTD, according to doctors. Four out of ten people with it or another form of dementia have a relative who also has it or another form of dementia.
FTD caused by genetic mutations occurs when one of three genes changes:
- The protein tau (MAPT)
- The protein progranulin (GRN)
Symptoms vary depending on the type of mutation you have.
Read: Vascular Dementia
Any strange behavior should be reported to a doctor. They should know about your medication and family history. Your doctor may also order blood tests so that other problems can be ruled out. There is a chance that your doctor might recommend a neurologist, who will examine you for things like balance, reflexes, memory and thinking.
Your doctor may also order the following testing:
- EEG (electroencephalogram): This is a test of brain activity
- CT scan (computed tomography scan): An X-ray image shows you a detailed picture of your brain
- MRI: It is a method of taking images of the brain utilizing radio waves and magnets
- PET scan: It measures how well your brain is functioning
- Spinal tap: This sample contains fluid from around the brain and spinal cord
Frontotemporal dementia treatment
There is no cure or treatment for FTD. There is no evidence that drugs that slow Alzheimer’s disease are as effective on FTD; in fact, they may make symptoms worse.
There are certain medications and treatments your doctor can recommend to manage your symptoms, such as:
- Antidepressants: They help with behavioral problems.
- Antipsychotics: These medications may help with behavioral issues, but they also have serious side effects, including a greater risk of death.
- Speech therapy: It helps with communication issues.
Read: Mixed Dementia
Frontotemporal dementia life expectancy
There is no danger to life from this condition. However, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. You can also seek the help of speech experts, physical therapists and nurses.
These are also things you should consider:
- Consult your doctor about medication options
- Join a support group
- Spread the word to your loved ones
- Schedule a driving evaluation
- Maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine
- Make a plan for when you are unable to live as an independent adult and make decisions for yourself
You can help a person suffering from FTD by:
- Be clear about what you want others to expect from your loved one
- Find caregiver support groups to learn from each other
- You may want to consider taking a respite break from caring for your loved one
- Spend quality time with your friends, get enough sleep, exercise, and eat well to stay healthy and happy
It might be possible to diagnose and treat this type of dementia more effectively as doctors learn about it.