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Symptoms of Frontotemporal Dementia

The two main symptoms of frontotemporal dementia are changes in personality and loss of the ability to express and understand language. Unlike Alzheimer’s disease and Lewy body dementia, FTD does not affect an individual’s memory.

Changes in Personality

FTD affects the front, right side of the brain, which controls our judgment, personality, and ability to manage complex tasks. Individuals with this form of dementia might look like they are "acting up" because they may start behaving oddly or inappropriately in public places or around strangers. Social skills like tact and empathy may be lost. They may lose interest in everything, or they may suddenly need to be active all the time. They often lose the ability to make informed and safe decisions about tasks, such as managing finances or driving in the car. When the behavioral problems are the most obvious, this form of dementia may look a little like depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder. Not all people with FTD will show all of these symptoms.

Changes in Speech/Language

The disease also affects the way in which an individual is able to use and understand language. You may hear FTD called by the names "semantic dementia" and "primary progressive aphasia." Each of these names refers to a particular set of symptoms that affect language in frontotemporal dementia:

  • Semantic dementia: Semantic dementia refers to the disease’s effect on the temporal lobes of both sides of the brain. This region of the brain controls how we understand and recognize words, faces, and their meaning. A person with this symptom of FTD would have trouble communicating – both using words correctly and understanding what is being said.
  • Primary progressive aphasia: Primary progressive aphasia refers to the disease’s effect on the left side of the brain. This region of the brain controls the way in which we are able to put words together and express meaning. Individuals may have trouble finding and using the right words to explain themselves.

Resources

Frontotemporal Dementia

Source: The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration
Description: This site examples what frontotemporal dementias is.

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Pick's Disease: Symptoms and Prognosis

Source: HelpGuide.org
Description: This web page lists the symptoms of Pick's disease grouped by behavioral changes, emotional changes, language changes, and neurological and physical problems.

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Comportment, Insight, and Reasoning in Frontotemporal Dementia

Source: Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Description: This article discusses the typical effects of frontotemporal dementias on comportment, insight, and reasoning, and the psychosocial issues that occur in an individual with the disease.

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Early Signs and Symptoms - FTD

Source: University of California, San Francisco Medical Center
Description: This web page describes the signs and symptoms of frontotemporal dementia that occur in the early stages of the disease, including the behavioral and language symptoms of this form of dementia.

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