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Frontotemporal dementia or Frontal lobe dementia

Frontotemporal dementia (frontal lobe dementia) is an umbrella term for a diverse group of uncommon disorders that primarily affect the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain — the areas generally associated with personality, behavior and language.

In frontotemporal dementia, portions of these lobes atrophy, or shrink. Signs and symptoms vary, depending upon the portion of the brain affected.  Some people with frontotemporal dementia undergo dramatic changes in their personality and become socially inappropriate, impulsive or emotionally blunted, while others lose the ability to use and understand language.

Frontotemporal dementia is often misdiagnosed as a psychiatric problem or as Alzheimer’s disease.  But frontotemporal dementia tends to occur at a younger age than does Alzheimer’s disease, typically between the ages of 40 and 70.

The signs and symptoms may vary greatly from one individual to the next. Researchers have identified several clusters of symptoms that tend to occur together and be dominant in subgroups of people with the disorder. More than one symptom cluster may be apparent in the same person.

Behavioral changes
The most common signs and symptoms of frontotemporal dementia involve extreme changes in behavior and personality. These include:

  • Increasingly inappropriate actions
  • Euphoria
  • Lack of judgment and inhibition
  • Apathy
  • Repetitive compulsive behavior
  • A decline in personal hygiene
  • Lack of awareness of thinking or behavioral changes

Speech and language problems
Some subtypes of frontotemporal dementia are marked by the impairment or loss of speech and linguistic abilities. For example, primary progressive aphasia is characterized by an increasing difficulty in using and understanding written and spoken language. People with another subtype, semantic dementia, utter grammatically correct speech that has no relevance to the conversation at hand.

Movement disorders
Rarer subtypes of frontotemporal dementia are characterized by problems with movement, similar to those associated with Parkinson’s disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) — which is also often called Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Movement-related signs and symptoms may include:

  • Tremor
  • Rigidity
  • Muscle spasms
  • Poor coordination
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Muscle weakness

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