Frontotemporal degeneration refers to a group of diseases that cause dementia, which affect the frontal and temporal lobes early-on in the disease course before becoming more widespread. Dementia caused by frontotemporal degeneration is the most common cause of dementia in people under 60 years old. The diseases are progressive and shorten lifespan.
The most common type of frontotemporal degeneration is behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia. Other types of frontotemporal degeneration include primary progressive aphasia (two of the three subtypes), corticobasal degeneration, progressive supranuclear palsy, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – frontotemporal spectrum disorder.
Frontotemporal degeneration causes symptoms early-on that are different from Alzheimer’s disease. Behavior, personality, and language are most commonly affected, rather than memory. Some types of frontotemporal degeneration cause prominent physical changes that result in a slowness in movement (bradykinesia), muscle rigidity, abnormal gait, and tremor, collectively known as parkinsonism.
There is no cure for frontotemporal degeneration. Because the diseases tend to occur at a younger age than expected for dementia, the symptoms may be overlooked or misinterpreted. A comprehensive evaluation can clarify which type of dementia a person has and whether it is due to frontotemporal degeneration.