Frontotemporal dementia is a disease that can change a person’s personality and their ability to live an independent life. If your loved one is diagnosed, you’ll want to know what to expect and how to handle each of the frontotemporal dementia stages.
What Is Frontotemporal Dementia?
This is a term used to describe several disorders dealing with the temporal and frontal lobes of the brain. These are the areas of the brain that deal with language, personality, and a person’s behavior. This area of the brain becomes damaged and can even shrink.
Frontotemporal dementia age of onset can be as early as the age of 40, with 54 being the average age of onset, and is often misdiagnosed in younger adults as a psychiatric issue and in older adults as Alzheimer’s. Older adults can start to see symptoms all the way into their 80s.
Stages of Frontotemporal Dementia
Frontotemporal dementia differs from Alzheimer’s, as it affects a different area of the brain. Because of that, you may not see the early confusion in patients that you normally see in other types of dementia.
There are 3 stages of frontotemporal dementia:
- Mild Behavioral Variant – With this stage, you may notice your loved one is overeating and seems to have a loss of sympathy for other people. They might also have difficultly when it comes to organization.
- Moderate Behavioral Variant – The symptoms of this disease will remain the same for the first few years, but they will get worse over that period. You may also notice your loved one starts compulsively cleaning areas of your home and collecting objects.
- Severe Behavioral Variant – In this final stage, symptoms will become even more pronounced with the addition of memory loss and language difficulties.
Frontotemporal Dementia Symptoms
Some of the signs of frontotemporal dementia include the following:
- Lack of inhibition
- Loss of empathy
- Speech difficulties
- Issues with balance
- Inappropriate behavior
- Poor judgement
- Mood changes
- Compulsive behavior
Frontotemporal Dementia Life Expectancy
This disease is different for everyone who has it. Even so, when it comes to how long can a person live with frontotemporal dementia, it is typically between 6 and 8 years once the symptoms start.
How to Diagnose Frontotemporal Dementia
Because frontotemporal dementia can start at an earlier age, it can be difficult to diagnose. There is no one test that will determine if someone has it or not. Blood tests are used to determine if there is another source causing the symptoms.
Neuropsychological testing can be done to determine the type of dementia someone is suffering from, and brain scans can help discover tumors or blood clots that might be causing the symptoms. When it comes to frontotemporal dementia, it can be a case of running tests to rule out other possible issues before your doctor can come up with a diagnosis.
As for frontotemporal dementia risk factors, there is only one, and that’s having a family history of dementia.
Any type of dementia can be scary, but with frontotemporal dementia, you want to be sure to seek a doctor’s advice if your loved one’s behavior begins to change—even if they are only in their 40s. While there is no cure, understanding what is happening and what is to come will help.