Frontotemporal Dementia

Frontotemporal dementia, previously called Pick’s disease, is caused by damage to the brain’s frontal and temporal lobes. Your frontal lobes control movement, speech, and functions of intellect and behavior. The temporal lobes control visual memory, verbal memory, recognition and interpretation of other’s emotions and reactions. Frontotemporal dementia causes these lobes to decline and shrink. Eventually, a person with frontotemporal dementia may have symptoms that affect many areas of life.

Differences Between Frontotemporal Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

Frontotemporal dementia can be mistaken for Alzheimer’s disease. Here are a few key differences to tell them apart.

Alzheimer’s Disease

  • A common type of dementia.
  • Diagnosed with increasing age.
  • Memory loss is a prominent symptom.
  • Behavior changes occur later in the disease.
  • Spatial orientation, hallucinations and delusions are more common with Alzheimer’s disease.

Frontotemporal Dementia

  • A rare type of dementia.
  • Typically, this type of dementia begins between the ages of 40 to 60, or sometimes younger.
  • Behavior and language changes are prominent symptoms (memory loss occurs later).
  • Behavior changes are often the first noticeable symptom.
  • Speech and reading problems are more common with frontotemporal dementia.

Causes of Frontotemporal Dementia

Family history is a major risk factor for frontotemporal dementia. About one-third of frontotemporal degenerations are inherited. Scientists have discovered several gene mutations that may lead to the disease. Genetic counseling can help you understand your risk for frontotemporal dementia based on personal and family medical history.

Symptoms of Frontotemporal Dementia

Symptoms of frontotemporal dementia fall into four main categories:

  • Behavioral changes. These include an inability to function in social settings, difficulty keeping a job, and impulsiveness or repetitive behavior.
  • Emotional changes. These include mood swings, failure to show empathy or concern, and lack of interest in events or environment.
  • Language problems. These include an inability to read, write, speak and understand speech.
  • Nervous system problems. These include memory loss, weakness and lack of coordination.

Diagnosing Frontotemporal Dementia

To diagnose frontotemporal dementia, a physician will assess you or your loved one’s behavior during a neuropsychological assessment and review personal and family medical history. While a brain biopsy is the only test that officially confirms a diagnosis, a physician who is familiar with frontotemporal dementia can use diagnostic tests to rule out other causes of dementia. You or your loved one may need brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a computed tomography scan, or a positron emission tomography scan of the brain.

Managing Frontotemporal Dementia

Frontotemporal dementia cannot be cured. However, you can work with a physician or neurologist to manage the disease. Your provider may suggest:

  • Discontinuing medications that make confusion worse, such as analgesics, which include over-the-counter pain relievers.
  • Taking medication to help manage mood swings.
  • Treating underlying disorders that cause confusion, including anemia, nutritional disorders or depression.
  • Increasing cognitive stimulation through reality orientation.

If you or your loved one has symptoms of frontotemporal dementia, a neurologist can help with diagnosis, treatment and connecting caregivers to additional resources. Find a provider.

Next Steps with MyChart

Discover MyChart, a free patient portal that combines your Baptist Health medical records into one location. Schedule appointments, review lab results, financials, and more! If you have questions, give us a call.