Not so long ago, people dismissed dementia-related behaviors as senility or “old age”. We now have a better understanding of the brain, brain disorders, and the different types of dementia.
While dementia is not a specific diagnosis on its own, any disease or condition that causes brain damage can be categorized as dementia. Dementia is a general term for any severe decline in mental abilities due to the brain’s physical deterioration. Not all types of dementia are the same. Below, we review the four most common forms of dementia:
Understanding these four main types and knowing what to look for can help caregivers ensure those they care for get prompt medical treatment.
Alzheimer’s Disease is the country’s sixth?leading cause of death, with more than 5 million Americans living with this disease. While the precise causes of Alzheimer’s disease are unknown, research indicates that it stems from a mix of the following:
- Hereditary factors
- Lifestyle factors
- Environmental factors
Mayo Clinic reports that in less than 1% of cases, a specific genetic change leads to the development of the disease.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s include:
- Memory loss
- Trouble communicating
While there is no cure, many therapies can improve the quality of life for people with Alzheimer’s. Because of its prevalence, the U.S. government has prioritized Alzheimer’s research, hoping to find a cure by 2025.
Also referred to as “post?stroke dementia” and “multi?infarct dementia,” vascular dementia claims the second spot on the list of most common types of dementia. According to some estimates, vascular dementia may account for 20 percent of the total number of all dementia cases. While vascular dementia occurs when a stroke restricts blood flow to the brain, not all people who have a stroke will develop this type of dementia. The symptoms of vascular dementia vary depending on what region of the brain is affected. Symptoms may include the following:
- Short?term memory problems
- Getting lost in familiar areas
- Inappropriate laughter or crying
- Difficulty with concentration
- Money management problems
- Trouble following instructions
- Lack of bowel or bladder control
Vascular dementia shares risk factors for stroke, including smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. And while there’s no treatment for vascular dementia, early diagnosis and behavioral interventions can prevent further damage.
Also called cortical Lewy body disease or diffuse Lewy body disease, LBD affects about 1.4 million people in the U.S. It is the third most common cause of dementia. Because the symptoms closely mimic other diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, LBD is frequently under-diagnosed. LBD is caused by the appearance of abnormal proteins in nerve cells which impair and impede normal functioning. Symptoms of LBD include the following:
- Sleep problems
- Memory loss
- Variations in alertness
While it can take up to two years for symptoms to reach levels where they can be diagnosed, early detection leads to better outcomes. There is no cure, but treatment methods include medication as well as non?medical options, such as physical, speech, and occupational therapy.
Frontotemporal Degeneration (FTD)
FTD is also known as frontotemporal dementia, frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), or Pick’s disease. It affects between 50,000 and 60,000 Americans, according to the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration. FTD differs from other types of dementia in two significant ways:
- While it affects a person’s behavior, personality, language, and ability to function, memory is usually unaffected.
- It is also thought of as a “young” person’s disease as the average diagnosis age is 60.
Symptoms of FTD include the following:
- Decreased inhibition
- Loss of motivation
- Reduced empathy
- Compulsive behaviors
Like other forms of dementia, frontotemporal dementia has no cure, but there are effective medical and non?medical interventions for treating symptoms.
- Visit our FAQ page on Alzheimer’s & Dementia for quick answers to common questions.
- Visit the Alzheimer’s Association to find help and support for Alzheimer’s Disease. Check their local resources page to find support near you.
- Visit the Lewy Body Dementia Association to learn more and find support.
We hope this information is helpful to you in the important work you do as a family caregiver.
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