Symptoms of Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD)

Medically Reviewed on 2/14/2023

What are the common symptoms of frontotemporal dementia?

Symptoms of Frontotemporal Dementia
Since frontotemporal dementia can resemble other brain disorders and present a wide range of distinct symptoms.

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a type of dementia that affects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, which are crucial areas responsible for the development of behavior, personality, and language.

Common symptoms of FTD include the following:

  • Changes in behavior and personality: People with FTD may exhibit changes in their personality and behavior, such as becoming more impulsive, disinhibited, or apathetic. They may have trouble with social norms and may become more selfish or narcissistic.
  • Language difficulties: FTD can cause problems with language, including difficulty speaking, understanding speech, or finding the right words to use. They may have difficulty reading and writing.
  • Difficulty planning and decision-making: FTD can affect a person's ability to plan and make decisions, leading to problems with organization and problem-solving.
  • Memory loss: Although FTD is not typically characterized by significant memory loss, people with FTD may have difficulty with short-term memory or memory of recent events.
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities: People with FTD may lose interest in activities and hobbies previously enjoyed. They lose motivation and self-isolate from everything they know. They have very less interest in self-care and personal hygiene.
  • Changes in physical abilities: FTD can cause changes in physical abilities, such as difficulty with balance and coordination.
  • Depression and anxiety: Depression and anxiety are commonly seen in some people with FTD.

What is frontotemporal dementia?

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a type of dementia that affects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. It is caused by degeneration or damage to the cells in these areas of the brain and is a progressive condition.

The frontal lobes are located at the front of the brain and are involved in functions such as planning, decision-making, and social behavior. The temporal lobes are located on the sides of the brain and are involved in functions such as language, memory, and perception.

FTD is rare and tends to manifest earlier in life than other types of dementia. About 60 percent of people with FTD are between the ages of 45 and 64 years. This condition is more common in men than women. In the early stages, people may only have one symptom.

What causes frontotemporal dementia?

The current understanding is that frontotemporal dementia (FTD) develops when abnormal proteins build up and collect in neurons (brain cells). Tau, TDP-43, and FUS are some of the most common proteins that are known to build up and cause FTD. Sometimes, a person's genes mutate or have a variation, which causes these accumulations.

Since 2009, various investigations have determined that at least 40 percent of FTD cases are known to be familial. These cases may result from a history of dementia in the family, a serious mental illness, or advancing mobility issues.

Cases of familial FTD are hereditary or genetic in origin. They occur when a parent passes a genetic variation linked to FTD to their child. All recognized genetic types of FTD are autosomal dominant, which means that a child has a 50 percent chance of receiving a mutation linked to the disease from one parent.

Although more than a dozen genetic variations have been linked to FTD, the most common causes are mutations in C9orf72, GRN, and MAPT genes.


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What are the risk factors for frontotemporal dementia?

The risk factors for frontotemporal dementia (FTD) include:

  • Age: FTD is most common in people between the ages of 40 and 65 years.
  • Gender: FTD is more common in men than in women.
  • Family history: A family history of FTD or other brain disorders that involve abnormal protein accumulation (such as Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's disease) may increase the risk of FTD.
  • Genetic mutations: Certain genetic mutations may increase the risk of FTD. For example, mutations in MAPT, GRN, or C9ORF72 genes have been linked to an increased risk of FTD.
  • Head injuries: Traumatic brain injuries, especially those that involve repeated blows to the head, may increase the risk of FTD.

What are the different stages of frontotemporal dementia?

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a progressive condition that worsens over time. However, the rate at which FTD progresses can vary widely from person to person. It is also important to note that FTD does not follow a predictable pattern of progression, and the specific symptoms that a person experiences may vary over time.

There is no standard set of stages for FTD and different people may experience the condition in different ways.

The following is an example of a staging system for FTD, which classifies into five stages:

  1. Stage I: Early symptoms, such as subtle changes in behavior or personality, may be present. These changes may be mild and may not interfere with daily life.
  2. Stage II: Symptoms become more noticeable and may begin to interfere with daily activities. People with FTD at this stage may have difficulty with language, social interactions, and planning and decision-making.
  3. Stage III: Symptoms continue to progress and become more severe. People with FTD at this stage may have difficulty with self-care and may require more assistance with daily activities.
  4. Stage IV: Symptoms are severe and significantly interfere with daily life. People with FTD at this stage may require full-time care and have difficulty communicating or moving around.
  5. Stage V: Refers to end-stage FTD where the symptoms are severe. In this stage, the person with FTD depends completely on others for all aspects of care.

How is frontotemporal dementia diagnosed?

As frontotemporal dementia (FTD) can resemble other brain disorders and present a wide range of distinct symptoms, it can be challenging to diagnose. Your doctor will note down your thorough medical history and conduct a physical exam to diagnose the condition. Any observed changes in behavior or personality may also be brought up by the healthcare provider.

The following tests may be used to help diagnose FTD:

  • Cognitive and neuropsychological testing: These tests assess mental abilities such as memory, language, and problem-solving.
  • Brain imaging: Tests such as CT scans or MRI scans can be used to look for signs of brain damage or degeneration.
  • Genetic testing: In some cases, genetic testing may be used to look for mutations that increase the risk of FTD.
  • Neurological examination: This exam checks for signs of brain damage or degeneration, such as changes in muscle tone or reflexes.

What are the treatment options for frontotemporal dementia?

There is currently no cure for frontotemporal dementia (FTD), and the only treatment available is to manage the symptoms.

Some treatment options for FTD may include:

  • Medications: There are currently no medications specifically designed to treat FTD, but some medications may be used to help manage specific symptoms such as depression, anxiety, or sleep problems.
  • Physical, occupational, and speech therapy: These therapies may help maintain or improve physical abilities, such as mobility and coordination. Moreover, these can help people with FTD communicate and participate in daily activities.
  • Supportive care: This may include assistance with daily activities such as bathing, dressing, and eating, as well as support for caregivers.
  • Clinical trials: Participating in a clinical trial may provide access to experimental treatments that are not yet widely available.
Medically Reviewed on 2/14/2023
Image Source: iStock image

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