There are more than 200 subtypes of dementia – a general term for a decline in thinking, remembering, and reasoning skills. The type of symptoms you experience will depend in large on the specific form of dementia you have, although many forms share similar symptoms. Memory loss is a hallmark of many forms of dementia but it is not always the first warning sign.
Frontotemporal dementia, for example, is an uncommon type of dementia that causes problems with behaviour and language.
According to Columbia University’s Department of Neurology, inability to use or understand language is a telltale sign.
“This may include difficulty naming objects, expressing words, or understanding the meanings of words,” says the academic body.
Other signs include:
- Behaviour and/or dramatic personality changes, such as swearing, stealing, increased interest in sex, or a deterioration in personal hygiene habits
- Socially inappropriate, impulsive, or repetitive behaviours
- Impaired judgment
- Lack of empathy
- Decreased self awareness
- Loss of interest in normal daily activities
- Emotional withdrawal from others
- Loss of energy and motivation
- Hesitation when speaking
- Less frequent speech
- Difficulty planning and organising
- Frequent mood changes
- Increasing dependence.
Dementia symptoms: Difficulty naming objects and expressing words are a sign
“Some people have physical or psychiatric symptoms, such as tremors, muscle spasms or weakness, rigidity, poor coordination and/or balance, difficulty swallowing, hallucinations, or delusions,” adds the research body.
These signs are not as common as behavioural and language changes, however, it notes.
When to seek help
According to the NHS, you should see a GP if you think you have early symptoms of dementia.
“If you’re worried about someone else, encourage them to make an appointment with a GP and perhaps suggest you go with them,” advises the health body.
Hair loss treatment: The best breakfast to encourage hair growth [ADVICE]
The common cooking oil you must avoid or risk lower back pain [TIPS]
High blood pressure: The four unusual signs found in your feet warning of hypertension [INSIGHT]
As it explains, the GP can do some simple checks to try to find the cause of your symptoms, and they can refer you to a memory clinic or another specialist for further tests if needed.
Am I at risk?
The exact mechanisms involved in frontotemporal dementia is not clear but researchers have identified a genetic link.
According to Alzheimer’s Research UK, for behavioural variant FTD, one in every two or three people with the disease could have a family history.
This figure is thought to be much lower for other forms of FTD.
Dementia symptoms: Frequent mood changes can also spell brain decline
“Scientists have found a number of faulty genes that can cause inherited forms of FTD, including tau, progranulin and C9ORF72,” explains Alzheimer’s Research UK.
Lifestyle factors may also influence your risk of the dementia.
One study found head trauma was associated with a 3.3-fold increase in risk of frontotemporal dementia.
Head trauma followed by loss of consciousness — a measure of severe brain injury—also appeared to be more frequent in patients with frontotemporal dementia, although this was not significant owing to the rarity of the occurrence.
Frontotemporal dementia: Scientists have found a number of faulty genes that can cause FTD
Thyroid disease was linked to a 2.5-fold increased risk of frontotemporal dementia, although the association was not significant after adjustment.
According to the research, it is well known that thyroid problems can lead to cognitive disturbance and even dementia, but thyroid disease may also be associated specifically with frontotemporal dementia.
Can it be treated?
There’s currently no cure for frontotemporal dementia or any treatment that will slow it down.
“But there are treatments that can help control some of the symptoms, possibly for several years,” says the NHS.