Many people have relatives who are living with dementia. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. This is a form of dementia that most are familiar with. On the other hand, there are other forms of dementia that you should be aware of, along with the most common symptoms. The second most common form of dementia is called frontotemporal dementia. This is also known as Pick’s disease.
Patients who suffer from this form dementia are often very difficult to deal with because the dementia erodes the frontal and temporal lobe of the brain. For the best prognosis, it is vital that this more of dementia is caught early.
Because this form of dementia erodes the frontal and temporal lobe of the brain, there are very specific symptoms that people should keep an eye out for. The frontal lobe controls the portion of the brain that influences the judgment of the individual. If this lobe begins to degenerate, the symptoms that will develop include disinhibition (saying inappropriate things, not clothing themselves properly, etc), apathy, loss of emotions, the development of compulsive behaviors, hyper-sexual behaviors, and issues performing executive functions. This set of symptoms is the hallmark of frontotemporal dementia.
The diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia is a combination of both clinical symptoms and imaging tests. The physician will first take a detailed history to explore the depths of the symptoms. This will include questioning the family members on what they have seen as well as observing the patient for themselves. If the physician believes that the symptoms are close enough to frontotemporal dementia to merit further testing, the physician is likely to order imaging tests.
These tests will include CT scans and MRIs that will demonstrate a shrinking of the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. The only way to definitively confirm a diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia is to examine the brain on autopsy.
Similar to other forms of dementia, there aren’t currently any definitive treatments for frontotemporal dementia. Instead, the physician will focus on treating the symptoms and trying to slow down the symptom progression. This will include treatment with selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors used to control emotions.
The cholinesterase inhibitors used to treat Alzheimer’s disease do not have any impact in the treatment of frontotemporal dementia because the symptoms of frontotemporal dementia do not stem from cholinergic transmitters. Treatment could also involve counseling as well as testing other family members to see if they carry certain genetic markers that will increase their own chance of developing this form of dementia.
For family members caring for people suffering from frontotemporal dementia, these are symptoms that can be a source of embarrassment. Therefore, it is essential that family members remain patient when caring for people suffering from frontotemporal dementia and remember that they cannot control their actions. It is vital that they remain sympathetic and compassionate to what the patient is struggling with in order to make the patient feel as comfortable as possible. This could help to minimize the symptom progression.