Cravings for sweets may be an early sign of dementia – symptoms

Unlike more common types of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia may not cause memory loss in the early stages. The charity Dementia UK has pointed out that the parts of the brain affected by frontotemporal dementia are responsible for personality, behavior and speech. It appears that a third of people with this disease have a genetic link.

Most often, people aged 40 to 60 suffer, there are two types of frontotemporal dementia.

There is a behavioral variant of frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) and primary progressive aphasia (PPA).

Behavioral variant can lead to:

  • Decreased motivation
  • Lack of interest in things the person used to enjoy
  • Inappropriate behavior, such as obscene comments, staring, being overly familiar with people.
  • Decreased empathy
  • Difficulty focusing on tasks
  • Obsessive or repetitive behavior, such as repeating phrases or gestures, hoarding
  • Changes in eating or drinking behavior, such as sugar cravings, poor table manners, overeating, excessive drinking.
  • Difficulties with planning, organizing and making decisions
  • Lack of awareness of changes in oneself (lack of insight).

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Frontotemporal dementia, a primary progressive type of aphasia, differs from the behavioral variant in that it tends to affect speech rather than behavior.

Symptoms of PPS may include:

  • Difficulty remembering, looking up, or understanding words
  • Gradual loss of vocabulary.
  • Forgets what ordinary objects are and what they are for, for example, a kettle, a toaster, keys.
  • Difficulties in using speech, including building sentences and using grammar correctly
  • Difficulties in carrying on a conversation – such as hesitation, using shortened sentences, or using the wrong words
  • It’s hard to find the words
  • They stop talking in mid-sentence while looking for the right word.

Early signs of frontotemporal dementia can be mistaken for depression or stress.

Diagnosis can be difficult, especially if the symptoms are subtle.

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The NHS adds that there may be “physical problems such as slow or stiff movements, loss of bladder or bowel control, muscle weakness or difficulty swallowing.”

There is no single test for frontotemporal dementia, and the diagnosis requires multiple approaches.

The evaluation may include a discussion of symptoms, mental tasks, blood tests, a brain scan, and a lumbar puncture.

“How quickly frontotemporal dementia worsens varies from person to person and is very difficult to predict,” adds the National Health Service.

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“Mean survival time after symptom onset is eight to ten years.”

Some people may recognize this condition as Pick’s disease or semantic dementia.

In fact, there may be various medical terms for frontotemporal dementia, such as:

  • FTD
  • frontal dementia
  • Frontotemporal lobar degeneration
  • Behavioral variant of frontotemporal dementia
  • Primary progressive aphasia
  • Progressive non-fluent aphasia.

While there is no cure for dementia, treatment can help manage some of the symptoms.

Antidepressants, for example, can help control loss of inhibitions, overeating, or compulsive behaviors.

Physical therapy can help with movement problems, and a speech therapist can improve communication skills.

People who have been diagnosed with dementia may also want to arrange for the treatment they would like to receive when the disease worsens.

Several charities offer dementia advice and support, including Dementia UK, Age UK and Carers UK.

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