Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a term that describes a group of neurodegenerative conditions that affect the front and sides of the brain (the areas called the frontal and temporal lobes respectively). The cause of FTD is not fully understood at this time. However, scientists believe that genetics and environmental factors may have an influence. Additionally, many studies have shown unusually high levels of proteins in the nerve cells of individuals with the condition. Ultimately, FTD causes the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain to shrink over time (frontotemporal atrophy).
Symptoms of FTD are often categorized either as behavioral changes or as speech and language difficulties, which reflect the brain areas affected. In certain forms of FTD, motor symptoms may appear as well. Behavioral changes are often seen as a loss of empathy, increasing lack of judgment, and depression. Language problems are seen as an increased difficulty with speaking or understanding language. This disease is most often found in older individuals who are in their 50s or 60s. Sadly, once the process begins, symptoms tend to progressively worsen over time.
Although there is no conclusive test to diagnose FTD, a combination of blood tests, reasoning/memory tests, and various brain scans can aid in diagnosing the condition. With brain imaging scans like MRIs, it is sometimes even possible to see the shrinking of the frontal and temporal lobes. If you or your family member has been diagnosed with FTD, talk with your doctor and specialists about the most current treatment options. Support groups are also a good source of information and help connect you with other individuals and families affected by FTD.