Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) affects the lobes of the brain behind the forehead, which deal with behaviour, problem-solving, planning and emotions.
The left temporal lobe is involved in the meaning of words and the names of objects.
The right recognises faces and familiar objects.
FTD occurs when nerve cells in these lobes die and the pathways that connect them change.
Symptoms are different from just the memory loss that is associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
These may include:
- Personality changes, such as becoming tactless, uninterested in others and unsympathetic
- Repeated and compulsive movements, such as continued use of certain phrases, hoarding and obsession over timekeeping
- Craving unhealthy food and forgetting table manners
- Speaking difficulties, including slow speech, grammatical errors and asking the meaning of familiar words like ‘bread’
FTD is rare, making up less than five per cent of all dementia cases.
However, it is one of the most common forms of the disease in people under 65.
Sufferers are usually aged between 45 and 65 at diagnosis.
The rate at which FTD progresses varies greatly, with life expectancies ranging from two years to more than 10 after diagnosis.
As it progresses and more of the brain becomes damaged, symptoms often become similar to those in the late stage of Alzheimer’s.
These may include memory loss and patients relying on others to care for them.
Around 10-to-20 per cent of FTD patients also have a motor disorder that affects their movement.
This can lead to twitching, stiffness, slowed movement and loss of balance or co-ordination.
In later stages, such patients may have difficulty swallowing.
Around one-third of FTD patients have a family history of dementia.
And the condition is often caused by an inherited faulty gene from one of a patient’s parents.
Treatment focuses on helping a person live well by easing their symptoms.
This may include counselling or a speech and language therapist.
Source: Alzheimer’s Society