Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a progressive, degenerative brain disease that gradually destroys the ability to behave appropriately, empathize with others, learn, reason, make judgments, communicate and carry out daily activities. In people under age 60, FTD is the most common cause of dementia and affects as many people as Alzheimer's disease in the 45-64 age group. Men are affected more commonly than women. There are several forms of the disease that lead to slightly different behavioral, language and/or motor symptoms. Due to the symptoms, FTD can be mistaken for Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease or a primarily psychiatric disorder like depression, manic-depression, obsessive-compulsive disease or schizophrenia. There is no treatment or cure yet that can reverse the damage, but medications and lifestyle changes can help relieve the symptoms. FTD is not contagious.
What is Frontotemporal Dementia?
To Discuss With Your Doctor
A good relationship and clear communication with your doctor will result in the best care for the person with FTD. Learning all you can about FTD will help you be prepared to discuss symptoms, tests and opportunities to participate in research. Feel free to download our Frontotemporal Dementia Primer that you can give to your primary care physician in case they have not treated someone with FTD.
Basic Biology of FTD
While the cause of FTD is unknown in most cases, we are beginning to understand the underlying brain changes that cause the symptoms. Changes in the proteins that make up the skeletal support of neurons (tau), regulate gene expression (TDP43) or stimulate cell growth and inflammation (progranulin) cause cell dysfunction and death. The cells that are preferentially affected sit in the frontal and anterior temporal lobes, causing specific deficits in behavior and thinking.