Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) refers to a group of brain disorders caused by nerve cell damage.
The damage occurs in the brain's frontal lobes (behind the forehead) and temporal lobes (behind the ears).
It can cause changes in personality, behavior, and communication skills.
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FTD is the name for a group of brain disorders that cause problems with language and behavior. FTD is distinct from other types of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.
Doctors used to call it Pick's disease.
FTD tends to strike younger people. Most cases occur in men and women between 45 and 64. Unlike Alzheimer's, memory loss is not the main symptom.
FTD isn't as common as other types of dementia. There are about 50,000 to 60,000 people with FTD in the U.S.
There are three types of FTD:
Doctors believe that FTD occurs when certain proteins (tau and TDP-43) build up around the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain.
The frontal lobes of the brain help control:
The temporal lobes are the language center of the brain and help with:
These proteins occur naturally and help with cell function in a healthy person. Researchers don't yet know why the proteins build up in someone with FTD.
For most people with FTD, the cause of the disease is unknown.
People with a family history of the disease are more likely to get it. Between 10% to 30% of bvFTD cases are genetic.
There are no known risk factors other than a family history of FTD. Those with this risk of the disease may want to get genetic counseling and testing.
Complications of FTD include:
Although FTD and Alzheimer's share some of the same symptoms (personality and behavior changes), they're not the same.
Here are some main differences:
Unlike Alzheimer's disease, memory loss is not one of the first symptoms of FTD. Some people with FTD may suffer memory loss as the disease progresses.
Signs of FTD may include social, language, and physical problems.
People with FTD may:
As FTD get worse, language issues become more common, such as:
People with FTD often have:
FTD is challenging to diagnose. Sometimes people have more than one type of dementia, called mixed dementia.
To help diagnose FTD and rule out other diseases, doctors may:
There's no cure for FDT. But you can manage some symptoms of the disease and improve your quality of life.
Doctors may suggest the following for treating FTD symptoms:
Someone with FTD will get worse as time goes on. The average life span for someone with FTD is 7 to 13 years after the start of symptoms.
But, many factors play into a person's life expectancy. Some people with FDT may live 20 years after the onset of the disease.
Infection and pneumonia are common in the late stages of the disease.