Dementia is not a disease, rather it is an umbrella term for a range of symptoms caused by the diseases or conditions commonly known as the Types of Dementia.
Dementia describes a range of symptoms, such as forgetfulness or muddled behaviour, caused by changes in the brain. These changes to the brain are the result of any number of conditions or diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Vascular or Frontotemporal dementia. These dementia causing conditions or diseases are commonly referred to as the Types of Dementia.
What are the Types of Dementia? - In Simple Terms:
There are many types of dementia, meaning there are many diseases or conditions which cause the symptoms of dementia. Although each type of dementia is different, they may share some symptoms in common. Here are some of the more common types of dementia:
What are the Types of Dementia? - In more detail:
The diseases or conditions commonly referred to as the types of dementia are many and varied. Each type of dementia results in damage to a specific part (or parts) of the brain. For instance Alzheimer’s disease causes damage to the hippocampus (the area of the brain which controls memory), whereas Vascular dementia causes damage to the blood vessels within the brain. The symptoms caused by the various types of dementia will also vary greatly. It all depends on which parts of the brain have been affected.
Many of the symptoms normally associated with dementia are part of the natural slowing down of cognitive and physical skills that come with ageing. However, simply getting old should not be confused with having dementia. Similarly, someone may display symptoms similar to dementia which may be caused by other treatable conditions.
Let’s look in more detail at some of the types of dementia
The following covers some of the more common types of dementia and the symptoms and stages associated with them. Links are also provided for more detailed medical and scientific descriptions of the various types of dementia, which are not covered here.
Alzheimer’s Disease- the most common type of dementia
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia affecting 60-80% of people with dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease affects 30% of the elderly over 85, with the majority being women. It is not a normal part of aging, although age is the greatest risk factor. As the world’s population ages, Alzheimer’s is becoming a more common cause of death, and an increasing drain on the economy.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease, with symptoms worsening over time. It cannot be medically prevented, cured, or slowed. As brain cells die, and nerve connections diminish, the total brain size shrinks.
Lifelong skills learned in childhood, such as reading, singing, dancing, telling stories or reminiscing, are not lost till very late in the disease. Engaging and encouraging these activities can greatly enhance the quality of life as the disease progresses.
Vascular Dementia- a preventable condition
Vascular dementia is not caused by a specific disease, rather it is the result of blood supply restriction to the brain. Progressive deterioration in a step-like manner is common, and surprisingly there may be noticeable improvement between each step.
Vascular dementia is preventable. Know the health risk factors and take steps to reduce them. Early diagnosis and detection are critical in reducing further decline.
Parkinson's Disease & Dementia with Lewy Bodies
Parkinson’s disease and Dementia with Lewy Bodies are two closely related types of dementia. They are known as forms of Lewy Body Dementia (LBD).
Both are defined by a build-up of Lewy body proteins in the brain. These protein deposits cause damage to the nerve cells of the brain, disrupting communication between brain cells.
Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) normally affects movement first. This may show up as tremors or rigidity in one side of the body. Dementia with Lewy bodies is diagnosed if cognitive and behavioral decline commences within a year. Parkinson’s disease is diagnosed if the delay is much longer.
Lewy body build-up can only be confirmed during after-death examination. As a result, both these diseases remain under-diagnosed.