What Is Frontotemporal Dementia?

Elderly and daughter reading a book together for improves memory and helps prevent dementia.

Most people are somewhat familiar with Alzheimer’s disease. The symptoms most associated with it are forgetfulness and getting lost. While Alzheimer’s accounts for an estimated 75% of all dementia diagnoses, there are other forms of dementia. One that has been in the headlines a lot lately is frontotemporal dementia.

After sharing with the world in early 2022 that the popular actor, Bruce Willis, was suffering from aphasia, family members recently announced his diagnosis has changed. Willis has been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, a disease for which one of the most common symptoms is aphasia.

What is frontotemporal dementia and how does it impact the lives of people who are diagnosed with it? Here’s what it’s helpful to know.

What Is Frontotemporal Dementia?

Frontotemporal dementia, or FTD, is a group of disorders caused by a buildup of tau and other proteins that destroy cells in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. These lobes are located behind the forehead and ears, respectively. There are several types of this disease, and most strike people at a younger age—usually between 45 and 64—than other forms of dementia do.

Two early signs of FTD are language problems and a change in personality. Like Willis, people in the early stages of the disease often begin to have difficulty speaking. Because they are often younger at the time symptoms appear, it can take longer to reach a diagnosis.

According to the National Institute on Aging, people with FTD typically live six to eight years with the condition. Genetics may play a role in 10%–30% of FTD cases. As with many forms of dementia, however, there are no other confirmed risk factors. Some researchers are exploring the idea that the thyroid and insulin levels may be linked to the disease.

Other Forms of Dementia

Beyond Alzheimer’s and FTD, other types of dementia include:

  • Vascular dementia: Next to Alzheimer’s, this is the most common form of dementia. It is the result of a disruption of blood flow to the brain, often caused by a stroke. Forgetfulness is a common symptom. A change in judgment is another. For example, an older adult who has always been responsible with money might suddenly start making expensive and unnecessary purchases.
  • Parkinson’s dementia: Research shows that 50%–80% of adults who have Parkinson’s disease (PD) will develop dementia, too. Because PD is a progressive disorder, experts believe it is caused by deterioration of nerve cells in the brain. Common symptoms include paranoia, delusions, forgetfulness and mood swings.
  • Lewy body dementia (LBD): The death by suicide of actor Robin Williams was linked to his diagnosis of Lewy body dementia. The illness occurs when protein clumps form in the cortex of the brain. Symptoms of DLB might include insomnia, balance problems, paranoia, memory loss, hallucinations and uncontrolled movement.
  • Mixed dementia: Many scientists working in the dementia field believe that an adult diagnosed with dementia of any type likely has or will develop another form of it, too. The most common combination of mixed dementia is Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

Personalized Memory Care at ASC

At American Senior Communities, we offer a variety of care options for adults with dementia, from apartments for adults in the early to middle stages of their disease to memory care neighborhoods for more advanced stages. Our team can help you find a solution that’s the best fit for a loved one. Call the ASC community nearest you to learn more!

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Disclaimer: The statements on this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The author does not in any way guarantee or warrant the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any message and will not be held responsible for the content of any message. Always consult your personal physician for specific medical advice.

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