There are multiple kinds of degenerative dementia, all of which affect different parts of the brain in different ways. Frontotemporal Dementia, which has several subtypes of its own, is one of these conditions, almost exclusively affecting the frontal lobe of the brain.
What Is Frontotemporal Dementia?
Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD), including a variety commonly referred to as Pick’s disease, is a form of dementia that is characterized by a degeneration of the brain’s frontal lobe, which sometimes expands into the temporal lobe.
FTD is also cited as the second most common form of dementia, behind only Alzheimer’s disease.
Risk Factors For Frontotemporal Dementia
Many degenerative neurological diseases do not have a strong genetic component, but FTD is believed to be an exception, with a high familial component compared to other instances of dementia. Unlike in other forms of dementia, however, there are no nutritional deficiencies or other habits that increase the likelihood of developing FTD.
Instead, risk factors for developing FTD include:
- Mutations in the MAPT and/or GRN genes of chromosome 17
- A family history of FTD
Signs And Symptoms Of Frontotemporal Dementia
FTD can be extremely difficult to diagnose accurately, because of a series of symptoms that vary strongly from person to person, and are similar to other forms of dementia. Three main groups of symptoms exist for the disease, all of which stem from the degeneration of the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. These groups are:
- A notable difference in behavior: This can include the onset of lethargy and a lack of spontaneity, or a complete disappearance of any inhibition. Social withdrawal is common, with some patients opting to stay in bed all day. Patients with FTD can sometimes engage in inappropriate behaviors such as sexually charged verbiage or, in some cases, criminal activity. Though rare, some patients also experience psychotic symptoms such as delusions, paranoia and hallucinations.
- Progressive nonfluent aphasia (PNFA): A gradual degradation of verbal fluency, patients begin to struggle with articulation, and may demonstrate increased phonological and syntactical errors in common speech. One notable difference from other forms of dementia is that FTD patients typically retain word comprehension.
- Semantic dementia: Carrying a problem opposite that of PNFA, semantic dementia preserves syntactic fluency, but with a loss of word comprehension.
Other symptoms of FTD include difficulty with complex planning or problem solving, and the appearance of frontal release signs, such as the rooting reflex or palmar grasp.
Treatments For Frontotemporal Dementia
Like other varieties of degenerative dementia, there is no cure or treatment that can eradicate, prevent or stop the disease from progressing. With proper support, behavioral issues can be managed, though the average length of survival is seven years from the onset of the condition.
FTD differs from other forms of degenerative dementia, because of its manifestation in the frontal lobe of the brain, and tendency to produce primitive reflexes and inappropriate behaviors. With a genetic correlation and no known cure, the disease can only be symptomatically managed with medical support.