Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD)

Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD) may also be referred to as fronto-temporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) or Picks disease.  It is estimated to occur in 10 to 20 percent of all dementia cases. It is one of the most common forms of dementia occurring in younger people.

FTD is similar to Alzheimer’s and other dementias in that patients will show loss of language and motor skills and deterioration in their ability to function.   But it is distinct from Alzheimer’s Disease in a number of ways:

  • Diagnoses of FTD typically appear when patients are in their 50s.  The mean age of diagnosis is about 57, compared to 70 for Alzheimer’s Disease.
  • Loss of memory is a less common symptom in early FTD than early Alzheimer’s.  In advanced FTD, patients have memory loss as well.
  • The main characteristic of Frontotemporal Dementia is a gradual, steady decline in behavior and language.  Memory is typically preserved (relative to other dementias).  Behavior changes do become apparent in AD, but more commonly after the disease has progressed.
  • Difficulties with spatial orientation — for example, getting lost in familiar places — is less common with FTD than in Alzheimer’s.
  • Loss of speech capability.  While AD patients have trouble thinking of the right word or remembering names, they often are able to make more sense when they speak and better understand the speech of others.
  • Hallucinations and delusions are fairly uncommon with FTD, but are more common with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Due to these factors, FTD may cause a significant inability to interact socially and professionally, affecting one’s work and family in a way other dementias in older patients do not.

Frontotemporal degeneration is characterized by deterioration and atrophy of certain brain areas, especially the frontal and temporal lobes.  These are the “executive” regions of the brain that control decision-making, personality characteristics, social behavior and language.  Because of the nature of these symptoms (and the fact that a patient is often “too young” for dementia to be considered), FTD is often initially misdiagnosed as a psychiatric problem or movement disorder, such as Parkinson’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is another possible misdiagnosis.

As with all dementias, there are currently no treatments to meaningfully slow or stop the progression of FTD. However, research is advancing and initial clinical trials are underway.

 

Acorn wishes to acknowledge the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration for this valuable content.  They can be contacted at:   AFTD
, Radnor Station Building 2 – Suite 320, 290 King of Prussia Road, Radnor, PA 19087; 267-514-7221 or 866-507-7222 (toll free); www.theaftd.org

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