Understanding the types of dementia
The word dementia describes a set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language. These changes are often small to start with, but for someone with dementia they have become severe enough to affect daily life. A person with dementia may also experience changes in their mood or behaviour. Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease or a series of strokes. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia but not all dementia is due to Alzheimer’s. The specific symptoms that someone with dementia experiences will depend on the parts of the brain that are damaged and the disease that is causing the dementia.
Alzheimer’s is a disease that causes dementia. It is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for about two-thirds of cases in the elderly. Alzheimer’s often develops slowly over several years. It is not always obvious to begin with and symptoms can overlap with other illnesses. Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish Alzheimer’s from mild forgetfulness which can be seen in normal ageing. Everyone with Alzheimer’s will experience symptoms in their own way. Early signs usually include difficulties forming new memories, but people may also experience language or spatial awareness difficulties.
Vascular dementia is the second most common cause of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. Vascular dementia is the second most common cause of dementia and can occur when blood flow to the brain becomes reduced. Some people have both vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease – often called mixed dementia.
Vascular dementia can also be called vascular cognitive impairment. Vascular dementia is sometimes given more specific names based on the changes in the brain that cause it. The most common of these are Stroke-related dementia. and Subcortical vascular dementia.
Dementia with Lewy bodies is the third most common cause of dementia. For every 100 people with dementia, around 15 of them will have dementia caused by DLB. This means roughly 100,000 people in the UK are likely to have the disease. Some people can show features of both Alzheimer’s and DLB. Dementia with Lewy bodies can cause common dementia symptoms, including memory loss, spatial awareness problems and a decline in problem solving skills.
Frontotemporal dementia or FTD (sometimes called Pick’s disease) is a relatively rare form of dementia.
FTD is thought to account for less than 5% of all dementia cases. It usually affects people between the ages of 45 and 64, but three out of every 10 people with FTD develop the condition at an older age.
FTD is caused by damage to cells in areas of the brain called the frontal and temporal lobes. The frontal lobes regulate our personality, emotions and behaviour, as well as reasoning, planning and decision-making. The temporal lobes are involved in the understanding and production of language.
Although often thought of as a disease of the elderly, around 4% of people with Alzheimer’s are under 65. This is called early-onset or young-onset Alzheimer’s. It usually affects people in their 40s, 50s and 60s. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of earlyonset dementia. However there are other causes in younger people such as frontotemporal dementia and vascular dementia. Contact us for more information on these kinds of dementia. If you are worried about yourself or someone else who is showing symptoms of dementia, talk to your GP. They will be able to rule out other health issues such as depression or anxiety which may cause similar symptoms in younger people. They will also be able to refer you to a specialist for other tests if necessary.
Here are some videos in which you may find useful in helping you understand the different types of dementia