Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD)

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a group of conditions that affect the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. These lobes are associated with the way we behave, our personality and use of language.

There are three variants of FTD, based on the area of the brain that is degenerating:

  • Behavioral-variant FTD
  • Semantic dementia
  • Progressive non-fluent aphasia

Symptoms

Symptoms vary depending on the area of the brain affected. Most become worse over time.

Behavior changes may include:

  • Increasingly inappropriate actions
  • Loss of the ability to relate to others emotionally
  • Lack of inhibition
  • Lack of interest, enthusiasm or concern
  • Compulsively repetitive behavior
  • Worsening personal hygiene
  • Changes in eating habits, predominantly overeating
  • Lack of awareness of thinking or behavioral changes

Changes in speech or language may include:

  • Increased trouble using and understanding written and spoken words
  • Difficulty remembering words
  • Speech that, though technically correct, isn't relevant to the current conversation
  • Talking more slowly or hesitantly

In rare cases, movement disorders may also develop. Symptoms of movement disorders include:

  • Tremor
  • Rigidity
  • Muscle spasms
  • Poor coordination
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Muscle weakness


Causes and Risk Factors

Frontotemporal dementia is caused by the breakdown of brain tissue. Sometimes, it is linked to a genetic change, but not in most cases.

FTD is associated with a buildup of proteins in the brain known as tau and TDP-43. The exact reason this buildup leads to FTD is not yet known.

The only known risk factor is a family history of dementia.

Treatments

There is no cure for frontotemporal dementia. Treatment plans generally focus on managing the symptoms of the disease.

Antidepressant and antipsychotic medications may be used to help address behavioral changes in patients.

Other treatments may include speech therapy to learn new ways of communicating. Occupational therapy can help patients with movement disorder symptoms learn new ways of completing daily tasks.