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What is Frontal Lobe Dementia?

By J.M. Willhite
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Frontal lobe dementia (FLD) is a degenerative disorder that adversely affects brain function in ways similar to those associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Individuals diagnosed with this form of dementia often possess no familial history of frontotemporal lobar degeneration or demential symptoms. Historically known as Pick’s disease, there is no cure for this progressive condition. Treatment is centered on symptom management and often involves the administration of medication and, in some cases, speech therapy.

There is no known, single cause for the loss of brain function associated with the development of frontal lobe dementia. In many cases, a genetic deficiency or cell mutation has been identified as a contributing factor to symptom presentation and progression. The condition originally carried the moniker Pick’s disease because it affects areas of gray matter that contain brain cells known as Pick bodies. Due to the numerous demential presentations, frontal lobe dementia is now used to designate a group of disorders affecting the frontal lobe. As research has continued, the name Pick’s disease has been re-assigned to designate those forms of frontal lobe dementia that primarily affect the Pick bodies and present with specific features.

Oftentimes, individuals exhibiting signs and symptoms of frontal lobe dementia may be misdiagnosed as having Alzheimer's disease. There is no definitive test to establish a diagnosis of frontal lobe dementia, therefore, a series of tests may be administered to identify key signs associated with the condition. Prior to any laboratory testing, an examination of one’s neuropsychological function may be conducted to evaluate his or her memory, language, and reasoning skills. Initially, a series of blood tests may be performed to evaluate one’s hormone and electrolyte levels and organ function. A variety of imaging tests, including a computerized tomography (CT) scan, may be conducted to assess the condition and functionality of the brain and to check for abnormalities, such as bleeding or blood clots.

The signs and symptoms associated with frontal lobe dementia are usually gradual in onset and progressive in development, often presenting in individuals of middle age. Primarily, symptom manifestation encompasses one’s behavior, motor skills, and speech and language capabilities. Behavioral signs can adversely affect one’s personality and present in a variety of ways, including apathy, compulsive behaviors, and uncharacteristic or inappropriate behaviors or situational responses. Individuals whose symptoms have progressed to impair their motor function may develop symptoms that include impaired muscle function, lack of coordination, and tremors. With time, it is not uncommon for symptomatic individuals to gradually lose their ability to communicate or understand language.

The debilitating effects of frontal lobe dementia often eventually necessitate around-the-clock care for symptomatic individuals. With no cure available, treatment is entirely centered on symptom management and slowing the progression of the disease. Antidepressant and antipsychotic medications are generally administered to alleviate one’s depression and counteract the effects of his or her behavioral issues. If one begins to exhibit impaired communication skills, speech therapy may be utilized to teach him or her new ways to communicate.

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