Understanding Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD)

April 4, 2023 Dementia Care

Understanding Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD)

According to NHS UK frontotemporal dementia is an uncommon type of dementia that causes problems with behaviour and language. Dementia is the name for problems with mental abilities caused by gradual changes and damage in the brain. Frontotemporal dementia affects the front and sides of the brain – the frontal and temporal lobes.

Dementia mostly affects people over 65, however, frontotemporal dementia tends to start at a younger age. Most cases are diagnosed in people aged 45-65, although it can also affect younger or older people. Like other types of dementia, frontotemporal dementia tends to develop slowly and get gradually worse.

What causes Frontotemporal Dementia?

Frontotemporal dementia is caused by clumps of abnormal protein forming inside brain cells. These are thought to damage the cells and stop them working properly. The proteins mainly build up in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain at the front and sides. These are important for controlling language, behaviour, and the ability to plan and organise. It’s not fully understood why this happens, but there’s often a genetic link. Around 1 in 8 people who get frontotemporal dementia will have relatives who were also affected by the condition.

If you have a family history of frontotemporal dementia, you may want to consider talking to your doctor about being referred to a geneticist and possibly having a genetic test to see if you’re at risk.

There’s a lot of research being done to try to improve understanding of the causes of FTD so treatments can be discovered.

What are the symptoms?

Signs of frontotemporal dementia can include:

  • Personality and behaviour changes – acting inappropriately or impulsively, appearing selfish or unsympathetic, neglecting personal hygiene, overeating, or loss of motivation.
  • Language difficulties – speaking slowly, struggling to make the right sound when saying a word, getting words in the wrong order, or using words incorrectly.
  • Problems with mental abilities – getting distracted easily, struggling, with planning and organisation.
  • Memory problems – these mostly occur later on, unlike more common form of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

There may also be physical problems, such as slow or stiff movements, loss of bladder or bowel control (usually not until later on), muscle weakness or difficulty swallowing.  These problems can make daily activities increasingly difficult, and the person may eventually be unable to look after themselves.

How does Frontotemporal Dementia differ from Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia?

As stated by Alzheimer’s Society , there are two broad types of frontotemporal dementia:

Behavioural variant FTD – damage to the frontal lobes of the brain mainly causes problems with behaviour and personality. These lobes are found behind the forehead and process information that affects how we behave and the control of our emotions. They also help us to plan, solve problems and focus for long enough to finish a task.

Primary progressive aphasia (PPA) – occurs when damage to the temporal lobes – on either side of the head nearest the ears – causes language problems. This part of the brain has many roles. A key function of the left temporal lobe is to store the meanings of words and the names of objects. The right temporal lobe helps most people recognise familiar faces and objects.

The first noticeable symptoms for a person with FTD will be changes to their personality and behaviour and/or difficulties with language. These are very different from the early symptoms of more common types of dementia. For example, in Alzheimer’s disease, early changes are often problems with day-to-day memory. In the early stages of FTD, many people can still remember recent events.

Importance of early diagnosis and treatment for Frontotemporal Dementia

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) can be hard to diagnose, because it is an uncommon type of dementia and does not cause memory problems at first. However, there are some ways to diagnose FTD including scans and genetic testing. Frontotemporal dementia is much less common than other types of dementia and often has different early symptoms. This means FTD can be hard for doctors to diagnose as they may not recognise its symptoms as dementia.

Most changes in behaviour or personality caused by FTD may not be very obvious at first. These kinds of symptoms – for example, risk-taking, loss of social or sexual inhibitions, or obsessive behaviour – can sometimes look more like the person is going through a difficult or emotionally-challenging time.

Also, if the person is under 65, doctors may not expect to see dementia in someone so young.

Even if changes in behaviour are understood as medical symptoms, they may be mistaken for depression, schizophrenia or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Problems with language or movement may also be misdiagnosed.

If a person is showing some of the symptoms mentioned, they may want to ask their doctor to explore FTD as a possible diagnosis – especially if they have family members with the condition.

There is currently no cure for frontotemporal dementia and the progression of the disease cannot be slowed down. Drugs that are commonly used to treat other types of dementia are not recommended for people with FTD.

These drugs, known as cholinesterase inhibitors (for example, donepezil, rivastigmine, galantamine) can actually make the symptoms of FTD worse.

However, there are many other ways to help someone with the condition to live well.

How can Cavendish Homecare help?

At Cavendish Homecare we help support you and your loved ones with our expertise in delivering dementia care at home. We understand that living with dementia can have a significant emotional, social, and psychological effect on both the person and their loved ones. We believe that enabling people to remain in their own homes is beneficial to keeping them in a familiar environment and reducing stressful situations that may arise in other settings.

If you would like to enquire about our Dementia Care, contact us on, 02030085210 or email us at info@cavendishhomecare.com.