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The term 'frontotemporal dementia' covers a range of conditions, including Pick's disease, frontal lobe degeneration and dementia associated with motor neurone disease.  All are caused by damage to the frontal lobe and/or the temporal parts of the brain. These areas are responsible for our behaviour, emotional responses and language skills.People who are affected by frontotemporal dementia may not have the type of memory problems normally associated with other types of dementia, they may behave very differently as a result of their illness. 

It is a relatively uncommon form of dementia which generally affects people at an earlier age than Alzheimer’s disease, typically in their forties or fifties.  Progression is similar to that of Alzheimer’s but in the early stages, damage to the brain is more localised affecting the frontal lobe first. Each person will experience the condition in his or her own individual way, but there are some symptoms commonly experienced by people with the condition. 

Typically in the initial stages, the person’s memory is still intact but their personality and behaviour changes.  They may lack insight, and lose the ability to empathise with others. They may become extrovert when they were previously introverted, or withdrawn when they were previously outgoing.  There may be inappropriate behaviour or lose their inhibitions.  People affected by this may also become aggressive, be easily distracted and or develop routines - for example, compulsive rituals.

The person affected may experience language difficulties in finding the correct words to use and may find it difficult to describe things or expressing themselves correctly.  They will have changes in eating habits, they may overheat or develop a liking for sweet foods.In the later stages, the damage to the brain is usually more generalised and symptoms usually appear to those of Alzheimer’s disease. People who are affected may no longer recognise family and or friends and may need nursing care.

This type of Dementia can be an inherited disease and in this case, the course of the disease usually has a specific pattern across family generations. So far the causes of non-inherited Frontotemporal dementia are unknown.  Fronto –temperal dementia can be misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease or other mood and psychiatric problems.  A detailed history of symptoms and tests must be used in order to diagnose this form of dementia.

Some individuals may have noticed problems with their memory, but a doctor may feel that the symptoms are not severe enough to warrant a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease or another type of dementia, particularly if a person is still managing well. When this occurs, some doctors will use the term 'mild cognitive impairment' (MCI). Recent research has shown that individuals with MCI have an increased risk of developing dementia.