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2 famous people have frontotemporal dementia; what is it?

Clinical research to develop a possible cure for Alzheimer's and dementia in the lab. (File Photo)

(WISH) — Two very popular public figures have recently come forward with their diagnoses of frontotemporal dementia: award-winning actor Bruce Willis and well-known media personality Wendy Williams.

Here is exactly what this disorder is and some important information that may be helpful.

According to, frontotemporal Dementia (FTD) describes a clinical syndrome associated with shrinking of the frontal and temporal anterior lobes of the brain. Originally known as Pick’s disease, the name and classification of FTD has been a topic of discussion for over a century. As it is defined, the symptoms of FTD fall into two clinical patterns that involve either (1) changes in behavior, or (2) problems with language.

The first type features behavior that can be either impulsive or bored and listless and includes inappropriate social behavior; lack of social tact; lack of empathy; distractibility; loss of insight into the behaviors of oneself and others; an increased interest in sex; changes in food preferences; agitation or, conversely, blunted emotions; neglect of personal hygiene; repetitive or compulsive behavior; and decreased energy and motivation.

The second type primarily features symptoms of language disturbance, including difficulty making or understanding speech, often in conjunction with the behavioral type’s symptoms. Spatial skills and memory remain intact.  There is a strong genetic component to the disease; FTD often runs in families.

In most cases, the onset of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) occurs between the ages of 45 and 65 years. However, some patients experience an extremely early disease onset.

Early onset have been reported in which the initiation of neurodegeneration occurred in patients in their 20 s to 30 s. The youngest onset age reported thus far is 14 years , although this is relatively rare in clinical practice.

The length of progression varies from two years to over 20 years. Over time, FTD predisposes a person to physical complications such as pneumonia, infection, or injury from a fall. The most common cause of death is pneumonia.