Frontotemporal Dementia

What Are The Causes & Risk Factors?

Frontotemporal dementia refers to a group of brain disorders where damage  and shrinkage occur to the frontal and temporal regions of the brain. The three  main types of frontotemporal dementia include a decline in:  

  • Behavior/personality 
  • Language abilities
  • Motor abilities
Caregiver assisting man out of bed

Researchers don’t know what causes frontotemporal dementia. The only known  risk factors are a similar disorder or family history of dementia, as it is inherited  in about 1/3 of all cases. However, most people with the disease have no family  history or other dementia.

What Are The Symptoms?


  • Difficulty speaking or hesitant speech
  • Difficulty using and understanding language, written or spoken, like  trouble word finding

Personality &  Behavior

  • Frequent mood changes, like increased agitation 
  • Trouble reading social signals 
  • Lack of empathy 
  • Impulsive, repetitive, or inappropriate behavior 
  • Low motivation 
  • Emotional withdrawal 
  • Decreased interest in activities
  • Change in eating habits or eating inedible objects

Judgment & Decision Making

  • Poor insight
  • Impaired judgment

Task  Performance

  • Trouble initiating and planning tasks
  • Attention problems


  • Tremors 
  • Muscle spasms, weakness, or rigidity 
  • Mobility changes, like slow movement, shuffling, trouble walking, poor  coordination, and balance issues
  • Trouble swallowing


Important Note

People may not experience every symptom. These symptoms may not mean a person has frontotemporal dementia. It’s important to rule out other causes by talking to a doctor.


What Can You Expect?

  • Frontotemporal dementia progresses over time. The time it takes varies from  person to person. People may require a higher level of care in later stages, like  full-time nursing care or living at a care facility.  
  • Symptoms vary depending on the area of the brain affected.
  • This disease may begin earlier than other types of dementia, often with  symptoms starting between age 40 and 65 (though it can occur earlier or later).
  • Mobility issues from this disease may require a person to need a wheelchair or  stay in bed.
  • Frontotemporal dementia may make a person more susceptible to other  illnesses like infections, pneumonia, and fall-related injuries.

What Treatments Are Available?

There is currently no cure for frontotemporal dementia or ways to slow its  progression. Treatments target the symptoms of the disease, which may include:  

  • Medications. These may include medications to treat sleep issues or behavioral  symptoms like anxiety and compulsive or irrational behaviors.
  • Therapies. Physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy can help  people with frontotemporal dementia cope with the physical symptoms of the  disease and engage in important activities.
  • Behavior modification. This may help manage challenging behavioral symptoms.

Additional Resources

  • Two elderly men talking

    Dementia Caregiver Checklist

  • Caregiver assisting man out of bed

    Frontotemporal Dementia

  • Caregiver helping woman walk

    Lewy Body Dementia

  • Caregiver working on a puzzle with elderly woman

    Mixed Dementia