Frequently Asked Questions

How is FTD different from Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease and FTD are both forms of dementia. The part of the brain that is affected by Alzheimer’s disease is different than that affected by FTD. FTD affects the front and sides of the brain where behavior and language is controlled. Also, Alzheimer’s is more about forgetfulness than FTD, although the person with FTD will seem to have trouble remembering how to say and do things.

Who can get FTD?

Any adult can get FTD, but it is a rare form of dementia. It is common for people who have FTD be been misdiagnosed with other diseases like Alzheimer’s or depression. But as science improves doctors are getting better at diagnosing it more accurately.

Will I get FTD?

In some rare cases, FTD can be passed from parent to child, meaning that there are genetic reasons that cause a person to develop FTD. Most cases, however, are considered to be sporadic, meaning the FTD is caused by something else, and other people in the family are not at risk. Doctors and scientists are working hard to figure out what these other causes are.

What happens to the brain of someone with FTD?

Proteins build up in brain and cause cells to die. The process of brain cells dying is called atrophy. When cells continue to atrophy in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain the person can no longer control things like behavior, emotions, logic, language and fine motor skills. Symptoms get worse over time as more brain cells continue to die.

Is there treatment for FTD?

No. There is no medicine that will slow or stop FTD once it has started. There are medications to make people with FTD feel more comfortable but there is no cure. Some things you can do to manage the symptoms of FTD include using very simple language and clear instructions when you talk to the person and providing them with a calm, predictable environment.

What does it mean that FTD is a “progressive disease”?

A progressive disease gets worse over time. As that happens, the symptoms will change and become more difficult to manage. Eventually the patient may lose all ability to speak, walk on their own or take care of themselves.

Will my loved one die from FTD?

People with FTD do die from this disease but there is no way to tell how soon that will happen. It affects different people differently so it is impossible to predict the course it will take.

Does it help to play games and do puzzles with the person with FTD?

It may not help their brain be healthier but it is a way to spend time together that both of you may enjoy. It’s important, though, not to force an activity that is frustrating (for them or for you!) or make them feel confused.

Is it okay that people with FTD sleep so much or watch so much television?

Often people with FTD do sleep more than they used to. Sometimes, though, they may be agitated at night and not settle down to sleep at all. It’s fine if they want to watch television all the time or even just sit quietly watching out the window. You don’t have to worry that they might be bored.

Do you have a question that is not listed above?

You are going to have many other questions about FTD as time goes on. Your friends and relatives will ask you questions as well. If you have a question that we didn’t’ answer here, please go to Ask a Question.  The people at AFTD will answer it for you.