Frontotemporal dementia is caused by a group of disorders that gradually damage the brain’s frontal and temporal lobes. These damages cause changes in thinking and behaviors. Symptoms can include unusual behaviors, emotional problems, trouble communicating, challenges with work, and difficulty with walking.
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD), sometimes called frontotemporal disorders, is rare and tends to occur at a younger age than other dementias. About 60% of people with frontotemporal dementia are 45 to 64 years old.
FTD is progressive, meaning symptoms get worse over time. Some people live more than 10 years after diagnosis, while others live less than two years after they are diagnosed. High levels of care, such as 24-hour care, may be needed over time. Once the person is diagnosed, it is important to plan ahead for financial, legal, and care arrangements that may be needed as the disease progresses.
There are several disorders that can result in frontotemporal dementia, all of which can affect middle-aged and older adults.
Do you or a family member have frontotemporal dementia? Researchers are looking for people like you to participate in a study to track disease progression and advance treatments — the ARTFL-LEFFTDS Longitudinal Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration (ALLFTD) Research Consortium.
The underlying causes of frontotemporal dementia are not yet fully understood. People with FTD have abnormal amounts or forms of proteins called tau and TDP-43 inside nerve cells, or neurons, in their brain. The neurons die because the buildup of these proteins causes damage. In some cases, changes or differences in genes can be identified as the cause of FTD. For example, about 10% to 30% of bvFTD cases can be attributed to genetic causes. People with a family history of FTD are more likely to have a genetic form of the disease.
The signs and symptoms of frontotemporal dementia vary from person to person and the order in which they appear can also vary. Changes in the frontal lobe of the brain are generally associated with behavioral symptoms and may also lead to movement symptoms. Changes in the temporal lobe generally lead to disorders of language and emotion.
Symptoms of frontotemporal dementia and associated disorders may include:
This booklet provides an overview of frontotemporal dementia, primary progressive aphasia, and related movement disorders.
Frontotemporal dementia can be hard to diagnose because symptoms are similar to other conditions. Also, because these disorders are rare, physicians may be unfamiliar with the signs and symptoms.
Talking with patients, family members, and caregivers can help doctors make a diagnosis. It is important to tell the doctor about any symptoms involving changes in personality and behavior and difficulties with speech or movement.
To diagnose frontotemporal dementia, a doctor may perform an exam and ask about symptoms, look at personal and family medical history, use tests to help rule out other conditions, order genetic testing, conduct an assessment of the mind and behavior, and order imaging of the brain. Only genetic tests in familial cases or a brain autopsy after a person dies can confirm a diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia. Researchers are studying ways to diagnose the disorders earlier and more accurately and to distinguish them from other types of dementia.
There is no cure for frontotemporal dementia and no way to slow down or prevent it. However, there are ways to help manage symptoms:
Medications, such as antidepressants and antipsychotics, may help treat certain behavioral symptoms. There are also medications that may help with movement problems, and physical and occupational therapy may provide some relief. Contact an academic medical center in your community to find a specialist and learn more about possible treatments. Visit the National Institute on Aging for a list of medical centers where people with frontotemporal dementia and associated disorders can be diagnosed and treated.
Support groups can also be a valuable resource for people with frontotemporal dementias and their caregivers, allowing them to share experiences and tips with others who may be in the same situation. Nonprofit organizations and community organizations may provide online or in-person support groups. Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers may also offer education and support groups.
If you have a family history or are concerned about symptoms of frontotemporal dementia, talk with your doctor. If you or someone you know has recently been diagnosed, explore the resources on this website and linked below to find out more about the disease, care, support, and research.
Explore the resources on this website and linked below to find more information from federal government agencies.
Learn more about frontotemporal disorders, treatment and management, and providing care for someone diagnosed.
Discover details about frontotemporal dementia and how to find a specialist.
View the basics of frontotemporal dementia. Also available in Spanish.
Understand frontotemporal dementia with parkinsonism-17 and genetic causes of the disease.
Read about GRN-related frontotemporal lobar degeneration and genetic causes of the disease.
The Alzheimer’s & related Dementias Education & Referral (ADEAR) Center is a service of the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health. Call 800-438-4380 or email email@example.com to talk with an information specialist.
This content is provided by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIA scientists and other experts review this content to ensure it is accurate and up to date.