When many of us think of dementia, we immediately grasp an image of an elderly relative who could no longer remember our names, misplaced keys, or got lost on the way home. But frontotemporal dementia (FTD) strikes those in the prime of their lives, sometimes leaving their memories intact and instead affecting their behavior, speech and movement. About 60% of those diagnosed with FTD are between the ages of 45 and 64, and experts say FTD is under diagnosed; between 20 to 50% of people with dementia who are under the age of 65 likely have FTD. Signs and Symptoms of Frontotemporal Dementia Once known as Pick’s disease, FTD is incurable, and causes progressive damage to the temporal and frontal lobes of the brain. It’s currently categorized into three main subtypes: behavioral variant (bvFTD), primary progressive aphasia (PPA), and semantic dementia (SD). Each of the subgroups has its own specific symptoms, but some general symptoms of FTD include: Gradual, progressive decline in behavior and/or speech Apathy or change in mood or personality; depression Weight gain from binge eating Inability to control impulses How FTD and Alzheimer’s Disease Are Different FTD is unlike Alzheimer’s disease in several ways, but most devastating for families is that FTD often affects those still in the prime of their careers, with children at home or in college. It sometimes breaks families apart before diagnosis because of the uninhibited behaviors and lack of impulse control involved with bvFTD. Other differences include: Memory loss is the primary symptom of Alzheimer’s; FTD’s is behavior and language. Alzheimer’s is often diagnosed in the elderly, while the average age of FTD diagnosis is 57. Life expectancy for people with FTD is lower than for those with Alzheimer’s disease. Getting lost in familiar places is more common with Alzheimer’s than FTD. Delusions and hallucinations are relatively uncommon with FTD. There are no medicines approved for FTD. Treatments for Alzheimer’s disease—such as Aricept (donepezil) and other cholinesterase inhibitors—can cause people with FTD to become more agitated. Between 10 to 15% of people diagnosed with FTD display symptoms of motor neuron disease—such as muscle weakness and difficulty walking, swallowing and eating—that mimic ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). FTD patients with motor neuron disease often decline more rapidly than others with FTD, generally only living between two and three years after diagnosis, compared with five to 10 years for those without motor neuron disease. Although there is no cure for FTD, speech, physical and occupation therapy can help patients retain some abilities for longer. Doctors also often treat agitation, mood and behavioral symptoms of FTD with antidepressant and antipsychotic medications. An early diagnosis is critical to finding effective treatment options, so talk with your doctor right away if you notice symptoms of FTD or any other form of dementia.