The Different Types of Dementia
We get asked all the time about the different types of dementia. Many people don’t realize just how many there are. Here’s our no fuss overview of what you need to know:
Here’s the breakdown:
- Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. Between 60 and 80 percent of all cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Signs and symptoms include memory loss, confusion, depression, or mood changes. A progressive disorder, Alzheimer’s starts before symptoms are recognizable. As it progresses, killing off brain cells, symptoms become worse. Coordination and difficulty walking may become a problem. Some patients have difficulty swallowing. One of the earliest signs is difficulty in communication, forgetting names and recent activities or places, and disorientation. A high number of patients with Alzheimer’s will wander. There is a genetic component that may influence the likelihood of someone getting Alzheimer’s.
- Caused by a lack of blood flow to the brain, Vascular Dementia is the next most common form of dementia. Possible causes impacting blood flow to the brain are atherosclerotic disease and stroke, afflictions that increase with age. With Vascular Dementia, patients may experience hallucinations and other vision problems in addition to confusion, disorientation, and concentration problems. Communities must be equipped to manage the severity of the dementia symptoms and an honest discussion with your senior placement specialist can help in this evaluation.
- Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) or Lewy body dementia involves a chemical interruption of messages to the brain, caused by protein deposits in nerve cells in the cortex (part of the brain). This interruption leads to confusion, disorientation, and causes memory loss. Visual hallucinations, sleep disturbances, and even fainting may be issues for these patients. These protein clumps may also be found in patients with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. This is a more common type of progressive dementia. Facilities that are able to secure patients who wake in the night or are at the risk of falling from fainting AND have the experience dealing with hallucinations is mandatory. Some communities will not take patients with Vascular or Lewy body dementia because of problematic behaviors, sometime sexual in nature, where patients’ confusion and hallucinatory symptoms may cause all sorts of problems. Similar to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, Lewy body patients may have trembling hands, difficulty walking and general weakness.
- Parkinson’s disease, in its advanced stages, may cause dementia. In this instance, reasoning and judgement are the hallmark symptoms to look out for. This iteration may also cause hallucinations. irritability, paranoia, and depression may develop as the disease progresses. Trouble speaking and forgetting words while in conversation is also common. Caused by abnormal clumps of protein deep in the brain. A degeneration of dopamine producing nerve cells results in involuntary and uncontrollable body movements. Parkinson’s is progressive, often leading to dementia similar to Alzheimer’s or DLB.
- Frontotemporal dementia affects the front and side part of the brain. Also known as Pick’s disease, it includes several different types of dementia but all effecting this part of the brain that impacts language and behavior. This part of the brain is associated with personality. Causing compulsive behavior, speech problems, loss of inhibitions, loss of motivation, and difficulty recalling the meaning of common words, Frontotemporal dementia refers to any type of dementia that is caused by problems with this part of the brain. There are some communities that will not accept a resident with this dementia.
- CDJ or Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease is a rare form of dementia effecting one in 1 million people annually. It is an aggressive and deadly form of dementia, where patients often die within the first year of diagnosis. Depression, agitation confusion and memory loss are common hallmarks. This dementia affects the body and patients may experience twitching and stiffness of muscles.
- Wernicke’s disease, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, or Wernicke’s encephalopathy are caused by a lack of vitamin B-1. Wernicke, a brain disorder. is a result of bleeding in the lower brain areas. Double vision, loss of muscle control, as physical symptoms of Wernicke’s disease, develop into Korsakoff syndrome when untreated. Korsakoff Syndrome is a memory disorder causing trouble with remembering things, learning new things, and processing information. These two syndromes are often grouped together and classified with dementias although they are not true forms of dementia. The similarities are so similar it makes sense to list it here.
- Mixed dementia is where someone has more than one type of dementia and is very common. According to Mayo Clinic, autopsy studies in of the brains of dementia patients 80 and older showed many to have a combination of several causes. Although people may not know they have multiple types. The symptoms are different from person to person. However, with progression, difficulty in speaking and walking is common. Early symptoms might include disorientation, memory loss, behavior and mood changes.
- NPH or Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus causes excess fluid to build up in the ventricles of the brain. Designed to cushion our brain and spinal cordes, ventricles are filled with fluid. But too much fluid places pressure on the brain that causes damage, and can lead to symptoms of dementia. NPH may be caused by injury or infection that causes bleeding, brain tumors, or brain surgeries that leave fluid or bleeding in the brain. Sometimes the cause is unknown. This type of dementia can sometimes be cured with surgery so it’s important to seek treatment and intervene early!
- Huntington’s disease, a genetic condition that causes a breakdown in the brain’s and spinal cord’s nerves cells, prematurely wasting away. Juvenile Huntington’s is rarer and adult onset fist shows signs in someone in their 30’s -40’s. The breakdown in nerve cells leads to dementia and impaired movement resulting in difficulty in walking, swallow and with jerking movements.
Dementia is also a result of other diseases such as multiple sclerosis, HIV or other illness or injuries that cause damage to the brain cells. Family history, age, repetitive brain injury (accidents or sports injuries) or infections with high fevers, poisoning, alcohol abuse, or cancers may all cause a form of dementia to manifest.
As with other disease, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, with good diet and exercise, no smoking and moderate to no alcohol use, and other healthy lifestyle measure, may aid in stemming the onset of dementia.