The 3 Most Common Types Of Dementia
Before we talk through the different types of dementia, lets first make sure you are aware of what we mean by dementia. Dementia is the umbrella term used to describe a collection of symptoms that are caused by the disorders impacting the brain. Rather, it does not refer to one specific disease, but instead a number of symptoms associated with a number of different neurological conditions.
People with dementia will experience changes with their thinking, ability to perform everyday tasks and behaviour. The extent to which people experience these symptoms will vary from person to person.
Understand Alzheimers Disease in 3 Minutes is an easy-to-understand video that describes the progression of Alzheimers Disease by TenderRoseHomeCare
The 3 most common types of dementia are listed below, and we have provided an overview of the prevalence in Australia and what symptoms may be observed.
Disorders Linked To Dementia
- Huntingtons Disease This disease is caused by a genetic mutation that causes nerve cells in your brain and spinal cord to deteriorate.
- Traumatic Brain Injury This type of dementia is caused by physical trauma to the brain that may cause nerve cells to breakdown years after the actual trauma.
- Creutzfeldt-Jokab Disease This is a rare form of dementia that is caused by deposits of infectious proteins called prions.
- Parkinsons Disease This disease often leads to dementia as it progresses.
What Are The Stages Of Dementia
The stages of dementia vary from person to person and the type of dementia. Keeping the four common types of dementia in mind, these seven stages are the usual progression that is experienced:
- No symptoms yet, but tests might reveal a problem
- Very mild changes in behavior, but independence remains
- Mild decline is noticeable, including changes in thinking, forgetting events, and repeating statements
- Moderate decline, meaning trouble remembering recent events and handling money
- A moderate to severe decline where they forget names, are unsure what time of day it is, and need some assistance with basic daily tasks
- Their decline is severe they are forgetting their spouses name, their personality is changing, and they need help eating and going to the bathroom
- Very severe decline, where they are unable to walk, can no longer speak their thoughts, and spend most time in bed
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What Are The Most Common Types Of Dementia
- Alzheimers disease. This is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60 to 80 percent of cases. It is caused by specific changes in the brain. The trademark symptom is trouble remembering recent events, such as a conversation that occurred minutes or hours ago, while difficulty remembering more distant memories occurs later in the disease. Other concerns like difficulty with walking or talking or personality changes also come later. Family history is the most important risk factor. Having a first-degree relative with Alzheimers disease increases the risk of developing it by 10 to 30 percent.
- Vascular dementia. About 10 percent of dementia cases are linked to strokes or other issues with blood flow to the brain. Diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are also risk factors. Symptoms vary depending on the area and size of the brain impacted. The disease progresses in a step-wise fashion, meaning symptoms will suddenly get worse as the individual gets more strokes or mini-strokes.
- Lewy body dementia. In addition to more typical symptoms like memory loss, people with this form of dementia may have movement or balance problems like stiffness or trembling. Many people also experience changes in alertness including daytime sleepiness, confusion or staring spells. They may also have trouble sleeping at night or may experience visual hallucinations .
Dementia With Lewy Bodies
The third most common type of dementiais Lewy body dementia , formed when alpha-synuclein proteins that build up along neurons cause cell damage and eventual neural death. This causes dementia symptoms that are similar to Alzheimers disease and vascular dementia, though the hallmark symptom of memory loss often doesnt present itself until later in the stages of Lewy body dementia.
This type of dementia accounts for five to ten percent of dementia diagnoses and primarily affects people between the ages of 50 and 85. Typically, people live for five to eight years after a diagnosis of LBD. Symptoms and treatment of this disease are similar to other dementias, but have some key differences.
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How Is Alzheimers Disease Treated
Medical management can improve quality of life for individuals living with Alzheimers disease and for their caregivers. There is currently no known cure for Alzheimers disease. Treatment addresses several areas:
- Helping people maintain brain health.
- Managing behavioral symptoms.
- Slowing or delaying symptoms of the disease.
What Is Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimers disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting up to 70% of all people with dementia. It was first recorded in 1907 by Dr Alois Alzheimer. Dr Alzheimer reported the case of Auguste Deter, a middle-aged woman with dementia and specific changes in her brain. For the next 60 years Alzheimers disease was considered a rare condition that affected people under the age of 65. It was not until the 1970s that Dr Robert Katzman declared that “senile dementia” and Alzheimers disease were the same condition and that neither were a normal part of aging.
Alzheimers disease can be either sporadic or familial.
Sporadic Alzheimer’s disease can affect adults at any age, but usually occurs after age 65 and is the most common form of Alzheimer’s disease.
Familial Alzheimers disease is a very rare genetic condition, caused by a mutation in one of several genes. The presence of mutated genes means that the person will eventually develop Alzheimer’s disease, usually in their 40’s or 50’s.
The Healthy Human Brain
Behind the ears and temples are the temporal lobes of the brain. These regions process speech and working memory, and also higher emotions such as empathy, morality and regret. Beneath the forebrain are the more primitive brain regions such as the limbic system. The limbic system is a structure that is common to all mammals and processes our desires and many emotions. Also in the limbic system is the hippocampus a region that is vital for forming new memories.
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What Are The Warning Signs Of Alzheimers Disease
Watch this video play circle solid iconMemory Loss is Not a Normal Part of Aging
Alzheimers disease is not a normal part of aging. Memory problems are typically one of the first warning signs of Alzheimers disease and related dementias.
In addition to memory problems, someone with symptoms of Alzheimers disease may experience one or more of the following:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life, such as getting lost in a familiar place or repeating questions.
- Trouble handling money and paying bills.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure.
- Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them.
- Changes in mood, personality, or behavior.
Even if you or someone you know has several or even most of these signs, it doesnt mean its Alzheimers disease. Know the 10 warning signs .
What Are The Symptoms Of Dementia
Early symptoms of dementia include :
- Forgetting recent events or information
- Repeating comments or questions over a very short period of time
- Misplacing commonly used items or placing them in usual spots
- Not knowing the date or time
- Having difficulty coming up with the right words
- Experiencing a change in mood, behavior or interests
Signs that dementia is getting worse include:
- Ability to remember and make decisions further declines
- Talking and finding the right words becomes more difficult
- Daily complex tasks, such as brushing teeth, making a cup of coffee, working a tv remote, cooking, and paying bills become more challenging
- Rational thinking and behavior and ability to problem solve lessen
- Sleeping pattern change
- Anxiety, frustration, confusion, agitation, suspiciousness, sadness and/or depression increase
- More help with activities of daily living grooming, toileting, bathing, eating is needed
- Hallucinations may develop
The symptoms mentioned above are general symptoms of dementia. Each person diagnosed with dementia has different symptoms, depending on what area of the brain is damaged. Additional symptoms and/or unique symptoms occur with specific types of dementia.
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Causes Of Frontotemporal Dementia
This is an important cause of dementia in younger people. It’s most often diagnosed between the ages of 45 and 65.
It’s caused by an abnormal clumping of proteins, including tau, in the frontal and temporal lobes at the front and sides of the brain.
The clumping of these proteins damages nerve cells in the frontal and temporal lobes, causing brain cells to die. This leads to shrinking of these areas of the brain.
Frontotemporal dementia is more likely to run in families than other, more common causes of dementia.
Read more about frontotemporal dementia.
What Is Known About Alzheimers Disease
Scientists do not yet fully understand what causes Alzheimers disease. There likely is not a single cause but rather several factors that can affect each person differently.
- Age is the best known risk factor for Alzheimers disease.
- Family historyresearchers believe that genetics may play a role in developing Alzheimers disease. However, genes do not equal destiny. A healthy lifestyle may help reduce your risk of developing Alzheimers disease. Two large, long term studies indicate that adequate physical activity, a nutritious diet, limited alcohol consumption, and not smoking may help people. To learn more about the study, you can listen to a short podcast.
- Changes in the brain can begin years before the first symptoms appear.
- Researchers are studying whether education, diet, and environment play a role in developing Alzheimers disease.
- There is growing scientific evidence that healthy behaviors, which have been shown to prevent cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, may also reduce risk for subjective cognitive decline. Heres 8 ways.
How Is Dementia Diagnosed
To diagnose dementia, doctors first assess whether a person has an underlying, potentially treatable, condition that may relate to cognitive difficulties. A physical exam to measure blood pressure and other vital signs, as well as laboratory tests of blood and other fluids to check levels of various chemicals, hormones, and vitamins, can help uncover or rule out possible causes of symptoms.
A review of a persons medical and family history can provide important clues about risk for dementia. Typical questions might include asking about whether dementia runs in the family, how and when symptoms began, changes in behavior and personality, and if the person is taking certain medications that might cause or worsen symptoms.
The following procedures also may be used to diagnose dementia:
Early detection of symptoms is important, as some causes can be treated. However, in many cases, the cause of dementia is unknown and cannot be treated. Still, obtaining an early diagnosis can help with managing the condition and planning ahead.
What Is Alzheimers Disease
- Alzheimers disease is the most common type of dementia.
- It is a progressive disease beginning with mild memory loss and possibly leading to loss of the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to the environment.
- Alzheimers disease involves parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language.
- It can seriously affect a persons ability to carry out daily activities.
Support For Family And Friends
Currently, many people living with Alzheimers disease are cared for at home by family members. Caregiving can have positive aspects for the caregiver as well as the person being cared for. It may bring personal fulfillment to the caregiver, such as satisfaction from helping a family member or friend, and lead to the development of new skills and improved family relationships.
Although most people willingly provide care to their loved ones and friends, caring for a person with Alzheimers disease at home can be a difficult task and may become overwhelming at times. Each day brings new challenges as the caregiver copes with changing levels of ability and new patterns of behavior. As the disease gets worse, people living with Alzheimers disease often need more intensive care.
Is Alzheimers The Most Common Type Of Dementia
James M. Ellison, MD, MPH
Swank Center for Memory Care and Geriatric Consultation, ChristianaCare
- Expert Advice
This article discusses the most common type of dementia, resulting in 60 – 80 percent of all cases of dementia diagnoses.
Andrew* first noticed his mothers forgetfulness at her 75th birthday party. She did her best to hide her difficulty, but it was obvious to him that she was having trouble remembering the names of several more distant cousins who had come to celebrate with her. Had her husband still been alive, he would have covered for her by greeting everyone by their names in order to remind her. Thinking back, Andrew realized that his mother had been having noticeable trouble during most of the previous year. Her reaction after her husbands death was more than simple grief. She was forgetting details of things that had happened. She seemed to be having more trouble using her microwave and food processor. She had misplaced some important bills and then thrown them into the garbage by mistake. She sometimes called Andrew to ask questions about things hed already discussed with her.
*The names and details in this story are composite and fictitious. They do not identify specific individuals.
But there is so much more to say about this matter!
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Risk Factors And Prevention
Although age is the strongest known risk factor for dementia, it is not an inevitable consequence of biological ageing. Further, dementia does not exclusively affect older people young onset dementia accounts for up to 9% of cases. Studies show that people can reduce their risk of cognitive decline and dementia by being physically active, not smoking, avoiding harmful use of alcohol, controlling their weight, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Additional risk factors include depression, social isolation, low educational attainment, cognitive inactivity and air pollution.
What To Do If You Suspect Alzheimers Disease
Getting checked by your healthcare provider can help determine if the symptoms you are experiencing are related to Alzheimers disease, or a more treatable conditions such as a vitamin deficiency or a side effect from medication. Early and accurate diagnosis also provides opportunities for you and your family to consider financial planning, develop advance directives, enroll in clinical trials, and anticipate care needs.
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Common Types Of Dementia
Most people diagnosed with dementia have one of 4 common types: Alzheimers Disease, Vascular Dementia, Frontotemporal Dementia and Dementia with Lewy Bodies. These types of dementia have slightly different symptoms and causes. You can find out more about each type below, and from our dedicated guides to each of these common types of dementia.
What Are The Different Types Of Dementia
Various disorders and factors contribute to the development of dementia. Neurodegenerative disorders result in a progressive and irreversible loss of neurons and brain functioning. Currently, there are no cures for these diseases.
The five most common forms of dementia are:
- Alzheimers disease, the most common dementia diagnosis among older adults. It is caused by changes in the brain, including abnormal buildups of proteins, known as amyloid plaques and tau tangles.
- Frontotemporal dementia, a rare form of dementia that tends to occur in people younger than 60. It is associated with abnormal amounts or forms of the proteins tau and TDP-43.
- Lewy body dementia, a form of dementia caused by abnormal deposits of the protein alpha-synuclein, called Lewy bodies.
- Vascular dementia, a form of dementia caused by conditions that damage blood vessels in the brain or interrupt the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.
- Mixed dementia, a combination of two or more types of dementia.
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Symptoms Of Vascular Dementia
Multiple small strokes may cause more gradual changes in thinking and behavior, as with each stroke more small vessels are damaged that eventually lead to an increasing number of damaging blockages to the brain. Memory loss is inevitably the biggest warning sign of vascular dementia, and after experiencing a vascular event like a stroke or blood clot, it is important to keep track of and work to maintain your cognition.
Symptoms that are specific to vascular dementia tend to be more dramatic directly after a stroke, and include:
- Disorientation, confusion, and inability to concentrate
- Trouble with speech, such as being unable to find the right words or pronounce them
- Vision loss and changes in senses like smell and taste
- Classic stroke symptoms like a droopy face, body numbness, or paralysis
- Uncontrollable emotional behavior like laughing or crying
- Uncontrollable body movements like hand grabbing or hitting
Much like Alzheimers disease and other dementias, these symptoms can be confused with other problems and need to be discussed with a healthcare professional in order to diagnose. Using blood tests, heart scans, and brain scans, your doctor will be able to help you determine the cause of your memory loss and other symptoms of dementia.
What Are Some Complications Of Alzheimers Disease
Alzheimers disease is an irreversible form of dementia. The rate of progression differs between people: some people have it only in the last 5 years of their life, while others may have it for as long as 20 years. Alzheimers disease eventually leads to complete dependence and increasing frailty. This means a secondary illness, such as pneumonia, may eventually cause death.
Other complications of Alzheimers disease may include:
- an inability to complete daily tasks such as planning meals and managing money
- a tendency to wander from home
- personality changes such as anxiety, depression and irritability that make relationships more difficult
- delusions and hallucinations in advanced stages of the disease
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