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Frontotemporal Dementia

When a loved one is diagnosed with dementia, it is not as straight-forward as you may think. There are different types of dementia that bring with it a wide variety of signs and symptoms as well as a difference in causes and treatments.

Once you understand how each type of dementia affects the patient, you will have a better idea of what symptoms to look for and how to get your loved one the best treatment possible.

What is Frontotemporal Dementia?

If a loved one is diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, he or she is suffering from progressive nerve cell loss in the brain’s frontal lobes or temporal lobes. These are located behind your forehead and behind your ears.

When someone suffers from frontotemporal dementia there is a loss of function in the parts of the brain mentioned above that affect behavior, personality, as well as speech. There may also be changes to muscle or motor functions.

There are different types of frontotemporal dementia including:

  • Behavior Variant Frontotemporal Dementia – Patients who suffer from this form of dementia have noticeable changes in their personality. The nerve cell loss is most prominent in the areas that control things like judgment and foresight, just to name a few. Typically people in their 50s and 60s develop this type of dementia.
  • Primary Progressive Aphasia – This is the second major type of the disease. This affects speech, writing and comprehension. The onset for this type of dementia is usually before age 65.
  • Progressive Nonfluent Aphasia – This causes people to lose their ability to remember and speak words. People develop this type of dementia between 50 and 60 years old.

Frontotemporal Dementia used to be called Pick’s Disease. It was named after Dr. Arnold Pick who first described a patient with distinct symptoms affecting language back in 1892.

Today, frontotemporal dementia is diagnosed by using neurological exams. Brain scans like MRIs as well as glucose positron emission scans are very helpful in diagnosing this type of dementia.

Signs and Symptoms of Frontotemporal Dementia

The symptoms of frontotemporal dementia can be seen in both behavior and language. They include:

  • Unwillingness to speak
  • Personality shifts & depression
  • Obsessive or repetitive behavior
  • Unusual verbal or physical behavior
  • Weight gain
  • Not being able to find the right words when speaking
  • Difficulty reading & writing
  • Weakness or slowing of movement

Because the symptoms can mimic other conditions, Frontotemporal Dementia is often misdiagnosed as other conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Vascular Dementia or Parkinson’s Disease. That’s why neurological tests can help in getting the right diagnosis.

Frontotemporal Dementia Causes

Nearly one-third of all cases are inherited. There are no known risk factors for frontotemporal dementia except for a family history or a similar disorder. Genetic counseling and testing is available for people with family history of this type of dementia.

Some researchers believe frontotemporal dementia is caused when a brain develops abnormal protein structures. But, they don’t know why they develop or how they can be prevented.

Frontotemporal Dementia Care and Treatment

There is no cure for frontotemporal dementia. There are medications that can be prescribed to reduce a patient’s agitation or depression. This is only to try to improve the patient’s quality of life. The condition gets worse over time and the exact rate differs from person to person.

Researchers are constantly looking for new medicines to treat this type of dementia. There many clinical trials that are ongoing to help improve treatment. The goal is to one day find a cure.

Many patients also utilize speech therapy to help them with the language skills the disease has taken from them. Speech therapists can also help patients find other ways to communicate.

Because this type of dementia can affect motor skills and muscles, many patients end up in a wheelchair as the disease progresses. In the later stages of the disease patients can begin having trouble swallowing and chewing which may lead them to need 24-hour care due to the risk of choking.

Find Frontotemporal Dementia Care Near You

In the beginning stages of frontotemporal dementia, many patients can be taken care of at home with some needing outpatient care for speech therapy. But, as the disease progresses, the need for 24-hour care becomes more apparent. When a patient has trouble swallowing, moving around, and controlling bladder and bowel movements, you may want to look into a care center.  Search our database to find the appropriate center near you. A memory care facility may be the right type of care needed. A doctor’s assessment can help determine what type of care is needed.

It’s important to get early diagnosis of the disease so that treatment can begin right away. This will help to make the disease more manageable since there is currently no cure. Hopefully one day researchers can find a cure for this type of dementia and the wide variety of others out there that exist.

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