Frontotemporal Dementia

Frontotemporal Dementia

Overview

Frontotemporal dementia is a broad term for a group of uncommon brain disorders that affect the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. These are the parts of the brain associated with personality, language and behaviour. In frontotemporal dementia, the brain cells in the frontal or temporal lobe atrophy (shrink) and die, disrupting neural networks and causing changes in behaviour. Frontotemporal dementia is often misdiagnosed as psychosis or Alzheimer’s disease. Frontotemporal dementia often occurs between the ages of 45 and 60 years.

Signs and symptoms

The symptoms of frontotemporal dementia differ in each patient and get significantly worse with time. The patient may experience significant behaviour changes, including loss of empathy and interpersonal relationships, loss of inhibitions, inappropriate social behaviours and repetitive compulsive behaviour. The patient’s vocabulary may also decline, causing them to have trouble naming even simple day-to-day objects. They may make mistakes in sentence construction or forget how to pronounce words. Patients also typically experience difficulty with their motor skills, similar to Parkinson’s disease. The patient may have tremors, muscle spasms, suffer from poor co-ordination or have difficulty swallowing.

Causes

The underlying causes of Frontotemporal dementia are unknown. There are certain genetic mutations that appear to cause shrinkage of the frontal and temporal lobes. However, more than half the patients who develop frontotemporal dementia have no family history of the condition, so the correlation is weak.

Risk factors

Family history is the only known risk factor. However, many people who have no family history of frontotemporal dementia also develop the condition so the connection is not well-established.

Complications

Frontotemporal dementia is not fatal. Patients can live with the condition for years. However, patients are at an increased risk of developing pneumonia and other infections or have an accidental fall. The consequences of these conditions could be very serious.

Diagnosis

There are no specific tests to diagnose frontotemporal dementia. The disease is diagnosed by a process of eliminating other medical conditions that cause similar symptoms. The doctor will require a panel of blood tests, sleep studies, neuropsychological testing to check the status of cognitive and reasoning abilities along with an MRI scan and a PET scan.

Treatment

There is no cure for frontotemporal dementia. Alzheimer’s medication does not seem helpful in treating frontotemporal dementia. Antidepressants and antipsychotic medications have been effective in treating some cases.. Speech therapy has also been effective in patients with the condition.

Prevention

As the cause is unknown, there are no preventative strategies for frontotemporal dementia.

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