Frontotemporal Dementia (Pick's Disease)

What are the symptoms of frontotemporal dementia?

As it is defined today, the symptoms of frontotemporal dementia fall into two clinical patterns that involve either (1) changes in behavior, or (2) problems with language.

The first type features behavior that can be either impulsive (disinhibited) or bored and listless (apathetic) and includes

  • inappropriate social behavior;
  • lack of social tact;
  • lack of empathy;
  • distractability;
  • loss of insight into the behaviors of oneself and others;
  • an increased interest in sex;
  • changes in food preferences;
  • agitation or, conversely, blunted emotions;
  • neglect of personal hygiene;
  • repetitive or compulsive behavior, and
  • decreased energy and motivation.

The second type primarily features symptoms of language disturbance, including difficulty making or understanding speech, often in conjunction with the behavioral type's symptoms. Spatial skills and memory remain intact.

Is frontotemporal dementia inherited?

There is a strong genetic component to the disease; frontotemporal dementia often runs in families.

Is there any treatment for frontotemporal dementia?

No treatment has been shown to slow the progression of frontotemporal dementia. Behavior modification may help control unacceptable or dangerous behaviors. Aggressive, agitated, or dangerous behaviors could require medication. Antidepressants have been shown to improve some symptoms.

What is the prognosis (the outlook) for frontotemporal dementia?

The outcome for people with frontotemporal dementia is poor. The disease progresses steadily and often rapidly, ranging from less than 2 years in some individuals to more than 10 years in others. Eventually some individuals with frontotemporal dementia will need 24-hour care and monitoring at home or in an institutionalized care setting.

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