What Is Frontotemporal Dementia?

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD), the fourth most common cause of dementia, is a group of disorders that occur when the nerve cells in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain are damaged, causing the lobes to shrink. It is as common as Alzheimer's disease in people under the age of 65. FTD can affect a person’s behavior, personality, language, and movement.

Facts about frontotemporal dementia

About 250,000 Americans have frontotemporal dementia. These diseases are among the most common dementias that strike at younger ages. Symptoms typically start between the ages of 40 and 65, but FTD can strike young adults and those who are older.

The cause of FTD is unknown. Researchers have linked certain subtypes of frontotemporal dementia to mutations on several genes. The most common is a mutation called C9ORF72, which was discovered in 2011. It can cause amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as Lou Gherig’s disease, and a combination of both diseases. Other common mutations include MAPT and progranulin.

A family history of FTD is the only known risk for these diseases. Although experts believe that some cases of frontotemporal dementia are inherited, the majority of people with FTD have no family history of it or other types of dementia.

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