Fronto-temporal dementia, also called frontal lobe dementia, is one of the primary degenerative dementia diseases. Unlike other forms of dementia, it mainly affects people of working age. The disease usually starts at the age of 50–60, and in some cases as early as at the age of 40. It is unusual to develop the disease after the age of 70.
In fronto-temporal dementia, the nerve cells undergo atrophy (wither away), primarily in the frontal lobe and the front part of the temporal lobes of the brain. The disease has the same insidious progression that is also typical of Alzheimer’s disease, but the symptoms vary a great deal.
Families of people who have developed fronto-temporal dementia may notice that the patient’s personality begins to change, their language becomes impoverished and their judgement begins to fail more and more. The affected person becomes restless, self-absorbed and emotionally indifferent. Sudden outbursts of rage and excessive alcohol consumption may occur. At the end of the course of the disease, the person’s speech becomes even more monotonous and their facial expressions rigid and expressionless.
Fronto-temporal dementia is often confused with depression, psychosis or other mental illness. It can be difficult to diagnose as typical dementia symptoms are uncommon at the start. Forgetfulness is not an early symptom. Forgetfulness and impaired orientation capacity, which are early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, do occur in fronto-temporal dementia but usually only in the latter part of the disease’s progression.
There is no cure for fronto-temporal dementia. Symptoms such as anxiety and severe restlessness can be treated by medication. However, great care should be exercised when using psychotropic drugs as people with fronto-temporal dementia appear to be particularly sensitive to this type of medication.
Some of the following symptoms may occur with fronto-temporal dementia: confusion, disorientation, repetitive behaviour, aggressiveness, anxiety, pain, depression.