How to Recognize Frontal Lobe Dementia Symptoms

Written by Pam MS, NCSP | Fact checked by Psychology Dictionary staff 

Most people have heard of Alzheimer's disease, an illness of the brain that causes memory loss. Alzheimer's disease, though, is not the only cause of dementia. Another common brain disease is frontal lobe dementia. As in Alzheimer's disease, the symptoms grow worse over time. There is no known cure, and the disease usually ends in death related to brain dysfunction. Frontal lobe dementia patients typically have an earlier age of onset than Alzheimer's patients, with some people developing symptoms as young as 40 years of age. The early symptoms of frontal lobe dementia are also different than those of Alzheimer's.

Problems with Speech

People with Alzheimer's may forget a name or not be able to think of the word they want to use. People with frontal lobe dementia frequently have problems with language in general. A language that they have spoken their whole lives, for instance, may start to sound like gibberish. People with frontal lobe dementia may start to talk in a speech pattern known as "word salad," a jumble of words that don't make sense. Another symptom of frontal lobe dementia is losing the ability to understand written language and losing the ability to write coherently.

Behavioral Changes

The frontal lobe is the part of the brain that regulates behavior. The frontal lobe keeps us from performing impulsive acts, like slapping someone when we are angry at them. When the frontal lobe is damaged by disease or injury, behavior may start to change. Loved ones may notice inappropriate behavior such as urinating in public, changes in appetite such as overeating and poor personal hygiene. A decline in empathy - the ability to understand how others feel, lack of inhibition and errors in judgment are also common symptoms.

Problems with Movement

Another early symptom of frontal lobe dementia is a dysfunction in movement. The person may exhibit tremors like those seen in people with Parkinson's. The body may become rigid, or the person may experience painful muscle spasms. The person can also experience poor coordination which leads to a high likelihood of falling. As the illness progresses, the person may also develop problems with swallowing which puts him or her at risk for aspiration pneumonia.

There are many conditions that can affect the brain and cause dementia. All of them lead to slightly different symptoms. In Alzheimer's, for example, the initial symptom is memory loss. Frontal lobe dementia causes a symptom cluster that includes problems with speech, behavioral changes and difficulty moving.

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