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Frontal lobe syndrome is a brain disorder that is usually caused by physical damage to the front of the brain. Severe head trauma, infections, strokes, and certain chronic disorders can all impair the delicate nerve connections and tissue in a section of the frontal lobe. Symptoms can vary widely depending on the extent of damage and the specific area affected, but most suffers experience some degree of personality change and thinking impairment. For example, a person might have a very short attention span, poor judgment, and problems communicating. Treatment options are limited, but behavioral therapy and earnest support from family can help many patients maintain productive, enjoyable lives.
The frontal lobe is involved in many different cognitive functions. It assists in memory, attention, decision-making, judgment, and conscience. Damage to part of the lobe can affect any or all of these functions. A person who has frontal lobe syndrome might lose the ability to hold a meaningful conversation or rationally choose the best course of action in an everyday situation. In some cases, patients are unable to consider other people's feelings and act and speak in highly offensive manners. They may become depressed, withdrawn, and easily agitated.
Diagnosing frontal lobe syndrome typically involves looking for signs of brain damage using imaging tests such as computerized tomography scans and magnetic resonance imaging. Such tests may reveal lesions, tumors, inflammation, or signs of abnormal bleeding. After a neurologist determines that frontal lobe damage is likely the cause of a patient's symptoms, he or she can set up a consultation with a neuropsychologist for further evaluation. Memory games, sequencing challenges, and other psychological tests help gauge the severity of a person's cognitive impairments.
Treatment decisions are made on a patient-to-patient basis. Few people with frontal lobe syndrome respond well to medications, and surgery is often much too risky and uncertain to even consider. If a cancerous tumor is found, radiation and chemotherapy may be considered, however. Drugs to regulate blood pressure or antibiotics to relieve infections may help some people from getting worse, but the damage already done is often permanent. A patient may be scheduled for behavioral therapy sessions with a trained psychologist to study and practice better decision-making skills.
It is very important for friends and family of a person with frontal lobe syndrome to educate themselves about the disorder and try to empathize with the sufferer. Patients may say things in a harsh way and fail to express true emotions, but they are still the same loved ones. Love and support are integral parts of helping people lead as close to normal lives as possible.