Frontotemporal dementia, or FTD, is a kind of dementia that most frequently develops when the number of nerve cells in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain declines.
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD)
Bruce Willis’s family just revealed that the actor has FTD. The 67-year-old Mr. Willis had to give up acting after receiving a diagnosis of aphasia. The family released a statement in which they stated that FTD is a horrible disease that many of us have never heard of and may affect anyone.
There are two types of FTD: primary progressive aphasia, which impairs communication, and behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia, which causes personality and behavioural abnormalities. “It targets the regions of the brain that make us most human,” Dr. Bruce Miller, a neurology professor at the University of California, San Francisco, said.
Susan Dickinson, president and CEO of the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration, stated that FTD is the most typical cause of dementia in adults under the age of 60. She said that there are around 50,000 people in the United States who have been diagnosed with FTD, however many experts believe that figure to be significantly understated given how difficult it can be to diagnose.
Doctors determine the illness based on symptoms and neuroimaging; there is no blood test or singular biomarker for it. Patients typically wait more than three years to receive a precise diagnosis, according to Ms. Dickinson.
What are frontotemporal dementia’s initial symptoms?
Individuals who have primary progressive aphasia may find it difficult to talk in whole phrases or to follow discussions. They could struggle to write or read.
According to Dr. Ian Grant, an associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, people with the behavioural version of FTD may behave strangely. He claimed that patients’ families would comment that they “seem like they’ve lost a little bit of their filter.” Someone who is normally quiet and reserved can start swearing or make harsh remarks on a stranger’s looks. According to Dr. Miller, the person could display apathy and lose motivation. Some people could also show a lack of concern for others around them.
Individuals with FTD frequently have poor organisational abilities and are unable to multitask or plan. According to Dr. Joel Salinas, a clinical assistant professor of neurology at NYU Langone Health, frontotemporal dementia can also show up as excessive gambling or impulsive spending.
Dr. Grant talked about the unpredictable conduct and bad judgement that can accompany personality changes brought on by FTD, such downing an entire bottle of maple syrup. Without any meaningful means of putting a check on it, he speculated that they could be demanding rapid pleasure.
According to Dr. Grant, these symptoms might lead to patients receiving a wrong diagnosis of a mental ailment like bipolar disorder. A mental disorder can be distinguished from FTD in a few ways, though: He noted that frontotemporal dementia normally affects persons in their 50s and 60s and that it is uncommon, but not impossible, for someone that age to acquire a new psychiatric condition without a prior history of mental health issues.
Moreover, a psychiatric condition would be less likely to reveal such abnormalities on a brain scan than FTD, which can cause atrophy or shrinkage in the front of the brain.
Frontotemporal dementia: what is its cause?
Beyond genetics, which is a significant risk factor for FTD, Dr. Miller added, experts are unsure of what causes the condition in the majority of cases. However, he added, there are things that anyone, including those with a family history of the condition, can do to reduce their risk of getting dementia or to slow the progression of the condition.
These include working out, interacting with other people, and continuing to engage in cognitive activities like reading, crossword puzzles, learning a new language, or playing an instrument. Yet according to Ms. Dickinson, there isn’t proof that any one exercise may stop FTD.
What FTD treatments are available?
According to Dr. Grant, FTD patients typically have a lifespan of five to seven years after they first exhibit noticeable symptoms. There is no cure, but there is a distinction between that and concluding that there is nothing that can be done, he added. Communication-challenged people may benefit from occupational therapy. According to Dr. Salinas, speech therapy can also be used to benefit these individuals.
A care plan, which may include precautions to ensure that FTD patients cannot kill themselves or their loved ones, is frequently developed by doctors in collaboration with the families or loved ones of FTD patients. According to Dr. Miller, some patients may get antidepressants as a treatment for mood or behavioural issues. Doctors may prescribe drugs to assist control the symptoms.
According to Ms. Dickinson, routines that are consistent and predictable typically help patients. Also, she noted that a lot of patients and family members find solace in support groups.
Physicians also make an effort to help families protect themselves. According to Dr. Miller, “the family frequently suffers as much as the patient.”