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An introduction to Frontotemporal dementia

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a rarer type of dementia that affects the front and side lobes (frontal and temporal) in the brain. Unlike other types of dementia that typically, affects people aged over 65, many cases of FTD are diagnosed in people aged 45-64.

There are two broad types of FTD, with symptoms quite different to those associated with Alzheimer’s disease. In particular, memory impairment is not normally present.

The broad types of FTD:

- Behavioural Variant FTD (bvFTD)

- Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA)

Behavioural variant FTD is where damage to the frontal lobes of the brain mainly causes problems with behaviour and personality.

A person with behavioural variant FTD may:

• Lose motivation to do things that they used to enjoy

• Struggle to focus on tasks and become easily distracted

• Find it difficult to plan, organise and make decisions

• Lose their inhibitions – behaving in socially inappropriate ways

• Lose the ability to understand what others might be thinking or feeling

• Show repetitive or obsessive behaviours – e.g. repeating phrases, or hoarding

• Crave sweet, fatty foods or carbohydrates and forget their table manners

Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA) occurs when damage to the temporal lobes – on either side of the head nearest the ears – causing language problems which comes in two forms. 

 A person with Semantic Variant PPA is likely to:

• Lose their vocabulary over time – at first mostly words they are less familiar with

• Forget what familiar objects are used for – for example, what a toaster does

• Get obsessed about daily routines or have eating problems

Over time, a person with Non-fluent Variant PPA will tend to:

• Find it more and more difficult to get their words out

• Speak differently – speaking more slowly, using the wrong grammar

• Use shorter, simpler sentences that miss out shorter words

• Say the opposite of what they mean – saying ‘yes’ when they mean ‘no’

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