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  • Kathryn Watson

5 Symptoms of Frontotemporal Dementia

Updated: Aug 18, 2022

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a type of dementia. In this disorder, the nerve cells in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain get lost. This causes the lobes to shrink, leading to changes in behavior. Symptoms of FTD can begin during the early years, between the ages of 40 and 65.

People often associate memory loss with older age. This is why symptoms of FTD often go ignored. One should be mindful that FTD is one of the earlier causes of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Causes and Risk Factors for FTD

The exact causes of FTD are unknown, but scientists believe that it may be genetic. In fact, 4 out of 10 people with FTD have a relative with dementia. FTD occurs when you have a mutation in your genes. The type of mutation that you have will then affect the symptoms that you experience. However, this doesn’t mean if you have no history of FTD, you won’t get it. A majority of people get FTD with no prior family history.

How to Diagnose FTD?

It can be very hard to diagnose FTD. This is because it overlaps with a lot of other disorders like depression, Alzheimer’s Disease, and schizophrenia, to name a few. The best course of action would be to consult a medical professional in case of any odd behaviors.

They may discuss your symptoms in detail and when they began. They will also discuss your medical history and any prescription medication that you’re taking. They might even interrogate about any family history of dementia and other types of disorders.

Here are some of the tests that can diagnose FTD or rule out other similar conditions:

· PET Scan

· CT Scan


· Spinal tap

5 Symptoms of Frontotemporal Dementia

Frontotemporal dementia affects the parts of the brain that control decision-making and social skills. This is why the symptoms of FTD can come out in many different ways. Since it’s had to diagnose FTD, you should be aware of the symptoms to seek timely help.

The thing is, any of these symptoms could appear before the other. It all depends on the part of the brain this condition affects. These symptoms may begin and worsen progressively or rapidly. This varies from person to person. Symptoms of FTD are often characterized by extreme changes in behavior or personality.

1. Apathy

Since FTD tends to affect your social skills, you might experience apathy as a common sign. If you have a loved one who suddenly becomes disinterested, this could be a marker of FTD. Apathy is common with many other conditions, which is why FTD often goes undiagnosed. You might think lack of interest is due to depression. This false diagnosis is common when it comes to this particular symptom of FTD. This often happens with the frontal variant, which affects your behavior and personality. Apathy can lead to the affected patient becoming increasingly withdrawn and even refusing to communicate.

2. Repetitive Behaviors

People with FTD start displaying anomalous behaviors. This is actually easier to notice. You might see an affected person displaying obsessive or repetitive behaviors. They would be seen tapping, clapping, or smacking their lips repeatedly. A study shows that the common repetitive FTD behaviors are seen in speech, movements, and unnecessary trips to the bathroom. Most often, these compulsive actions are mistaken for OCD. However, if you notice this in tandem with other signs of FTD, you can make a proper diagnosis. These behaviors often stem from an inability to control yourself or make any sound judgment.

3. Inability to Understand Things

Just like other types of dementia, FTD is often characterized by an inability to remember or understand things. You may notice that the affected person isn’t able to comprehend things they could before. This is one of the primary red flags. This lack of comprehension stems from a compromised sense of judgment. The inability to understand things is often due to the semantic variant primary progressive aphasia. This condition affects your ability to understand language, like phrases you previously even knew. This may lead them to further retreat into their shell, displaying an increased loss of interest in conversations.

4. Motor-Related Problems

FTD is often confused with Parkinson’s disease because it can lead to motor-related problems. The affected nerves may also interfere with their ability to control their basic movements. This symptom alone may not be enough to diagnose FTD. But with other symptoms, your doctor can make a proper diagnosis. Some motor-related problems associated with FTD include:

· Poor muscle coordination

· Weakness in muscles

· Falling or tripping more than usual

· Increased muscle spasms

· Difficulty swallowing and hence, eating

· Experiencing tremors

· Crying or laughing without cause or reason

5. Impaired Speech

Progressive nonfluent primary progressive aphasia is a type of FTD that affects the way you speak. People with FTD may start to experience impaired speech and this could progress to loss of speech altogether. Symptoms of FTD may include a complete inability to use and even understand spoken and written English. They may even have trouble naming objects and may start referring to things as ‘it.’ Some people with FTD find it harder to construct proper sentences. Their speech might not be clear and could sound almost telegraphic.

How to Treat Frontotemporal Dementia?

FTD has no cure or treatment, but there are ways to manage this condition. One should never use the same drugs to treat FTD as you would for AD or other dementia types. Your doctor may prescribe antidepressants and speech therapy to relieve the symptoms related to FTD.


If you notice a loved one displaying any of the symptoms of FTD mentioned above, you should consult a doctor. FTD isn’t a life-threatening condition, so you can learn to live with it. There are many things you can do to make this better for your loved ones. You can seek the help of support groups, speech experts, and even memory care homes to make their condition as easy as possible.

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