Frontotemporal dementia

What is frontotemporal dementia?

Frontotemporal dementia is one of the less common forms of dementia. The term covers a range of specific conditions. It is sometimes called Pick's disease or frontal lobe dementia. This page explains what frontotemporal dementia is, who gets it, and the symptoms. It also describes how it is diagnosed and the treatment and care that is available.

The word frontotemporal refers to the two lobes of the brain that are damaged in this form of dementia. The frontal lobes of the brain - situated behind the forehead - control behaviour and emotions, particularly on the right side of the brain. They also control language, usually on the left. The temporal lobes - on either side of the brain - have many roles. On the left side, the temporal lobe controls the understanding of words.

Frontotemporal dementia is caused when nerve cells in the frontal and/or temporal lobes of the brain die and the pathways that connect them change. There is also some loss of important chemical messengers. Over time, the brain tissue in the frontal and temporal lobes shrinks.

This damage to the brain causes the typical symptoms of frontotemporal dementia, which include changes in personality and behaviour, and difficulties with language.

As frontotemporal dementia is a less common form of dementia, many people (including some health professionals) may not have heard of it.

Frontotemporal dementia and younger people

Frontotemporal dementia occurs much less often than other forms of dementia (such as Alzheimer's disease or vascular dementia). However, it is a significant cause of dementia in younger people (under the age of 65). Frontotemporal dementia is probably the third most common cause for people in this age group. It affects men and women about equally.

Frontotemporal dementia is most often diagnosed between the ages of 45 and 65, but it can also affect younger or older people. This is considerably younger than the age at which people are most often diagnosed with the more common types of dementia such as Alzheimer's disease.