In recent years, dementia has become a commonly diagnosed ailment among elderly people. Virtually everyone has a passing knowledge of Alzheimer’s disease and its symptoms However, several other types of dementia exist. One type is Frontotemporal Dementia, which attacks the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, the areas that deal primarily with behavior and cognition. Understanding frontotemporal dementia stages is key to making sure that patients are properly diagnosed with this form of dementia.

Like other dementias, Frontotemporal Dementia progresses in stages. It has an earlier onset than Alzheimer’s disease, and initial symptoms tend to appear in people 45-60 years of age. Symptoms tend to be psychiatric in nature and may mimic many mental illnesses, such as depression or bipolar disorder. Memory is generally not affected. This may make an initial dementia diagnosis more difficult. The average duration of the disease, from first onset of symptoms to death, is eight years.

In early stages of the disease, patients will have subtle to marked behavioral symptoms and personality changes. For example, a normally shy person may suddenly become extremely outgoing. Patients may cease to worry about their personal appearance and may use poor judgment in social, financial, or sexual situations. Other symptoms include changes in the patients activity level and emotional reactions. Some patients may become apathetic and appear depressed while others may exhibit symptoms of mania or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. These changes in behavior occur because the disease affects the lobes of the brain that govern attention, concentration, and the ability to organize information.

As the brain continues to degenerate and patients progress into the intermediate stage of the disease, these symptoms will worsen. Patients may appear to be disconnected from their surroundings, be overly concerned about their health, and may experience changes in their sleep patterns. They tend to become more concerned with themselves.

In addition, they will begin to have difficulty carrying out complex tasks and will begin to lose the power of speech to varying degrees. Some patients will experience a total loss of speech while their memories remain intact and they are able to function normally. Others will have difficulty finding the appropriate words for the conversational setting or will have periodic loss of speech.

The intermediate stage of the disease is also characterized by loss of muscle control. Patients will begin to be unable to make their muscles respond to verbal commands. For example, a patient would be unable to respond to instructions to raise her right hand. Patients may also begin to lose control of their facial muscles.

When patients advance to the late stages of the disease, the symptoms tend to be similar to those seen in Alzheimer’s disease. They have generally lost all power to speak and no longer have control over their own muscles. In addition, there is extreme cognitive impairment. The complications of these symptoms then lead to death.

While the late stages of Frontotemporal Dementia are similar to Alzheimer’s disease, the early stages are very different. Because the symptoms can be quite subtle and are similar to those of many psychiatric conditions, it is important to understand the nature of this disease and its progression. Understanding frontotemporal dementia stages can help to ensure that patients receive a proper diagnosis and begin treatment as soon as possible.