Frontotemporal Degeneration (FTD) is the most common cause of dementia for people under age 60 – affecting more than 50,000 Americans. This neurodegenerative disease strikes earlier in life — when dementia doesn’t even seem like a possibility — and accurate diagnosis can take years. Families lose active parents and breadwinners without knowing what’s stealing away the person they love. And when a diagnosis is made, there are no effective treatments.
Key differences between FTD and Alzheimer’s
- Age at diagnosismay be an important clue. Most people with FTD are diagnosed in their 40s and early 60s. Alzheimer’s, on the other hand, grows more common with increasing age.
- Memory losstends to be a more prominent symptom in early Alzheimer’s than in early FTD, although advanced FTD often causes memory loss in addition to its more characteristic effects on behavior and language.
- Behavior changesare often the first noticeable symptoms in bvFTD, the most common form of FTD. Behavior changes are also common as Alzheimer’s progresses, but they tend to occur later in the disease.
- Problems with spatial orientation— for example, getting lost in familiar places — are more common in Alzheimer’s than in FTD.
- Problems with speech.Although people with Alzheimer’s may have trouble thinking of the right word or remembering names, they tend to have less difficulty making sense when they speak, understanding the speech of others, or reading than those with FTD.
- Hallucinations and delusionsare relatively common as Alzheimer’s progresses, but relatively uncommon in FTD.