Dementia: Not a Normal Part of Aging, Pt. 2

Frontotemporal Degeneration

By Diane Cummins on March 3, 2023

In part 2 of Golden Apple’s dementia series, we will focus on frontotemporal degeneration (FTD), often referred to as frontotemporal dementia. FTD is the result of damage to neurons in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. As a result of this damage, people may experience several symptoms, including emotional problems, difficulty communicating, unusual behaviors, difficulty with work, or trouble with walking. 

FTD is rare, and it tends to manifest at a younger age than other forms of dementia. Roughly 60% of people diagnosed with FTD are between 45 and 64 years old (National Institute on Aging, n.d.).

FTD is a progressive disease, meaning symptoms worsen over time. In the early stages of FTD, people may experience only one symptom. As the disease progresses, however, more parts of the brain are impacted, and other symptoms appear. 

FTD is not one single disease. In fact, it is a group of disorders. There are three types of FTD: behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD), primary progressive aphasia (PPA), and movement disorders. While each type of FTD is different, symptoms and the order in which they appear can vary from person to person. Additionally, the same symptoms can appear across each of the different types of FTD, and they can vary from one stage of illness to the next as different areas of the brain are affected. This can make it difficult to determine which FTD a person has.

Here is an introduction to the three types of FTD:

Behavioral Variant Frontotemporal Dementia (bvFTD)

This is the most common type of FTD. It involves changes in a person’s personality, behavior, and judgment. People with this disorder may have problems with cognition; however, their memory may stay relatively intact. Symptoms can include:

Over time, issues with language and movement may occur, causing the person with bvFTD to need increased care and supervision.

Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA)

PPA involves changes in an individual’s ability to communicate. This includes his or her ability to use language to read, write, speak, and understand what others are saying. This includes difficulty using or understanding words (aphasia) and difficulty speaking properly (e.g., slurred speech). People with PPA may have one or both symptoms. Over time, they may lose their ability to speak at all, becoming mute.

Many people with PPA develop symptoms of dementia including problems with memory, reasoning, and judgment. As the disease progresses, some people with PPA may experience significant changes in behavior, similar to those seen in bvFTD. PPA normally comes on in midlife, before age 65

There are three types of PPA, categorized by the type of language problems that initially appear.

Movement Disorders

Corticobasal syndrome and progressive supranuclear palsy are two rare neurological movement disorders that are associated with FTD. They occur when the parts of the brain that control movement are affected. Thinking and language abilities may be affected as well. Other movement-related types of FTD include frontotemporal dementia with parkinsonism and frontotemporal dementia with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (FTD-ALS).

Here is a brief synopsis of each of the four movement disorders associated with FTD:

The cause of FTD is unknown in most cases. Individuals with a family history of FTD are more likely to develop FTD. About 10 to 30% of bvFTD is due to specific genetic causes (National Institute on Aging, n.d.) It is difficult to predict how long someone with FTD will live. Some people live less than two years post-diagnosis, while others live more than 10 years. Treatment for FTD focuses on symptom management, as there is currently no cure for FTD. Unfortunately, available treatments do not slow or stop the progression of the disease.

You might be wondering… how does FTD differ from Alzheimer’s dementia? According to the Alzheimer’s Association (n.d.), there are several key differences between FTD and Alzheimer’s:


What are frontotemporal disorders? Causes, symptoms, and treatment. (n.d.) National Institute on Aging.,work%2C%20or%20difficulty%20with%20walking.

Frontotemporal dementia. (n.d.) Alzheimer’s Association.