10 Signs of Frontotemporal Dementia

A group of disorders caused by cell degeneration, frontotemporal dementia (FTD) affects the brain, specifically its areas associated with personality, behavior and language. Once considered a rare disease, FTD may account for 20-50% of dementia cases in people younger than age 65, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

10 Signs of Frontotemporal Dementia

FTD causes cell damage that shrinks the brain’s frontal (area behind the forehead) and temporal (area behind the ears) lobes. The disease generally starts with personality and behavior changes and may eventually lead to severe memory loss.

Often miscategorized as psychiatric illness, frontotemporal dementia typically strikes between the ages of 45 and 65. However, the Association for Frontotemporal Dementia Degeneration (AFTD) indicates that cases have occurred as early as age 21 and as late as age 80.

What Causes Frontotemporal Dementia?

Although it has been linked to a variety of gene mutations, the cause of FTD remains unknown. Physicians may use multiple tests to identify characteristics of FTD and rule out other possible conditions, such as liver or kidney disease. Standard testing may involve blood work, MRI, CT scan, PET scan and neuropsychological testing.

Signs and Symptoms of Frontotemporal Dementia

Each case of FTD is different, but the illness generally becomes more distinguishable from other brain conditions as it progresses. Symptoms may occur in clusters, and some may be more prevalent in early or later stages. Here is a list of ten signs of FTD:

  1. Poor judgment
  2. Loss of empathy
  3. Socially inappropriate behavior
  4. Lack of inhibition
  5. Repetitive compulsive behavior
  6. Inability to concentrate or plan
  7. Frequent, abrupt mood changes
  8. Speech difficulties
  9. Problems with balance or movement
  10. Memory loss

What is the Difference Between FTD and Alzheimer’s?

Like Alzheimer’s disease, FTD causes brain atrophy that leads to a progressive loss of brain function. Key differences between the two diseases include:

  • Age at diagnosis: Symptoms of FTD usually appear between the ages of 45 and 65, whereas the majority of Alzheimer’s cases occur in people over age 65.
  • From behavior changes to memory loss: Changes in behavior are an early sign of FTD, and problems with memory may occur in advanced stages. In contrast, Alzheimer’s affects memory early on and may lead to behavior issues as it progresses.
  • Speech problems: People with FTD often suffer greater problems speaking, understanding speech and reading than people with Alzheimer’s.

Treating FTD

Unfortunately, FTD has no cure. Current FTD treatments focus on easing symptoms but cannot slow the disease’s progress. Physicians may prescribe antidepressant or antipsychotic drugs to combat behavioral symptoms. Patients suffering from language issues may benefit from speech therapy.

The average survival rate after FTD diagnosis is six to eight years. In the final stages, patients typically require 24-hour care.

Long-Term Care for FTD

Experts recommend that caregivers prepare for long-term care management for their loved one with FTD. Medical specialists, nursing care, and legal and financial advisors should all be under consideration.

The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration provides a Support and Resources page to help guide you through a new diagnosis. This page also provides a place for sharing stories with other families as a means of helping each other cope and gaining insight on this disease.

What particular signs of FTD did your loved one show? What resources did you seek for help with managing his or her condition?

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Please leave your thoughts and comments

  • Beverly Hamilton

    Soon after my husband was diagnosed with probable dementia, I discovered sleep apnea. He was accepted into a program with Stanford U correlating sleep apnea and diminished neurological capacity. He had significant SA that had gone undetected because he was tall and thin and rarely snored–just ‘gasped’. An MRI showed infarcts in his brain that had occurred over the years. A neurologist says he now directs patients to a sleep study when they show symptoms of dementia. In my book chronicling what became our last year, 3 specialist in sleep disorders wrote in the addendum: Neurologist Dr. Mack Jones, author Deadly Sleep, psychiatrist/sleep specialist, Dr. Curran and ENT, Dr. Park. A link to Dr. Park’s site, who wrote an article in the NY Times: Sleep Apnea Masking as Dementia is on my site: http://www.ourtimelessyear.com. Hope this is helpful. Beverly Hamilton

    • Andy

      I’ve noticed many of the signs of frontal lobe dementia in myself. I am currently struggling with extreme insomnia. The dr tried to be helpful and prescribed a sleeping pill which I refused. Ive noticed also the stopper that most of us have that keeps us from verbalizing our internal feelings for me is completely gone now. I no longer even feel sympathetic to those who I have let loose a verbal bashing upon. The slightest thing will set me off now on a tirade. I’ve suffered multiple head injuries to my forehead over the years from 2 car accidents and a run in with an angry bull and suspect this may be the root cause of my problem.

      How does sleep disorders such as sleep apnea play a part in dementia?

      • Rose of Sharon


        It is only my opinion, but I believe frontotemporal dementia may be an autoimmune disorder. My husband has terrible allergies and snored loudly all his life. I really don’t care if people scoff, but I think a virus or bacterium entered his brain through his nasal passages and targeted the neurons in the frontal lobe. And combined with some sort of trigger, such as stress and/or a gene primed for the disease, the sickness took hold.

        I would appreciate if “experts” stop advising people to eat healthily, read tomes and construct 5000-piece jigsaw puzzles to ward off brain disease.

        • Rose of Sharon

          Andy: I also think it could possible be a fungus attacking the brain.

    • Malinda Hill

      My husband just walk out on me July 7th. Took almost all the money from the bank and filed for divorce all in one morning with the help of his older daughter by another marriage. Two days later he changed his life insurance. We still have a 21 year old at home that he used to adore and he won’t speak to her. After being together for over 24 years, married 23 years of that time, I am confused, heartbroken, and lost. It feels like a nightmare. I know his older daughter has a lot to do with it, but I also know his dementia has gotten worse. He was the love of my life and the other half of my soul. I miss him so much, but I don’t miss the terrible mean part of him that the dementia (FTD) brought on. I was told by many that when my heart heals, I will be better off in the long run. Probably, but what about him? Will he be taken care of? Probably not, and that will always shatter my heart.

  • Rose of Sharon

    My husband of 25 years walked out on me and our 4 children the day after buying an expensive condo in secret. I should say that he actually ran away because he darted out of the house, giggling euphorically. He left all of his possessions behind, including his clothes and toiletries. Our 2 youngest left for school that morning and returned home to find their stable, happy world shattered.

    I had stopped going out with my husband a few months before he left because he started yelling and insulting me in public, oblivious to the raised eyebrows and dropped jaws on the people who witnessed his outbursts. He had only ever gushed about me and now he was tearing me apart. He also started frequenting bars and sleeping around.

    A year before his sudden departure he bought several rentals, and decided it was a clever idea not to pay the IRS.

    Two years before, he opened bank accounts in his name only and began to grow distant from me. He preferred to exercise excessively and hang out with his young trainer. My husband did take me to see a comedian he really liked, but sat like a stone throughout the performance.

    I made the neurology appt. when my husband left our son stranded in a town 1 1/2 hours away but swore he didn’t. He is divorcing me now, but at least the children know it is because he is sick and not because he is bad. I feel so sorry for the spouses and families who don’t have the comfort of the diagnosis.

  • Rose of Sharon

    You may be cataloging behaviors so I will add a couple more: I asked my husband to claim the possessions he had left behind which the kids and I had packed up for him. My husband walked in the house and started displaying an odd, Tourette’s-like verbal tic. He snapped his head to the side, spat out “bitch” then snapped his head again and said “crazy.” He repeated these utterances several times.

    But he did not know there were people in the back room who heard him! My husband shook their hands and made jovial small talk as if everything was A-Okay.

    Also, the day he left I gave him his dental appt. card. He looked up to the ceiling while ripping it into pieces and trilled “I’ll never have to do this again!” while the confetti rained down on us. Then he exuberantly ran out of the house.

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