JOURNAL ARTICLE

Treatment of frontotemporal dementia

Richard M Tsai, Adam L Boxer
Current Treatment Options in Neurology 2014, 16 (11): 319
25238733
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) encompasses a spectrum of neurodegenerative diseases with heterogeneous clinical presentations and two predominant types of underlying neuropathology. FTD typically comprises three distinct clinical syndromes: behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD), semantic variant primary progressive aphasia (svPPA), and nonfluent variant primary progressive aphasia (nfvPPA). FTD also frequently overlaps both clinically and neuropathologically with three other neurodegenerative syndromes: corticobasal syndrome (CBS), progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Each syndrome can be associated with one or more underlying neuropathological diagnoses and are referred to as frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). Although the various FTD syndromes can substantially differ in terms of clinical symptoms and underlying pathology, the symptoms can be broadly categorized into behavioral, cognitive and motor domains. Currently there are no Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved therapies for the above syndromes except riluzole for ALS. FTD treatment strategies generally rely on off-label use of medications for symptomatic management, and most therapies lack quality evidence from randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials. For behavioral symptoms, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors may be effective, while case reports hint at possible efficacy with antipsychotics or anti-epileptics, but use of these latter agents is limited due to concerns regarding side effects. There are no effective therapies for cognitive complaints in FTD, which frequently involve executive function, memory, and language. Motor difficulties associated with FTD may present with parkinsonian symptoms or motor neuron disease, for which riluzole is indicated as therapy. Compared to idiopathic Parkinson's disease, FTD-related atypical parkinsonism is generally not responsive to dopamine replacement therapies, but a small percentage of patients may experience improvement with a trial of carbidopa-levodopa. Physical and occupational therapy remain an important corner stone of motor symptom management in FTD. Speech therapy may also help patients manage symptoms associated with aphasia, apraxia, and dysarthria. Recent advances in the understanding of FTLD pathophysiology and genetics have led to development of potentially disease-modifying therapies as well as symptomatic therapies aimed at ameliorating social and behavioral deficits.

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