Did you know that 50 million people around the world have dementia?
Generally speaking, dementia refers to the gradual decline and death of brain cells. But there are several forms of dementia that affect different areas of the brain.
Most of us are familiar with Alzheimer’s disease. But how is it different from other dementia types? What are the different types of dementia, anyway?
Read on to find out!
When people think of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is usually the first thing to come to mind. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia and currently affects 5.7 million Americans. This number is likely to grow at a staggering rate in the coming years as more people live into old age.
Like different types of dementia, Alzheimer’s involves the death of brain cells. But what exactly makes this occur in the first place?
There is still a lot we don’t understand about Alzheimer’s.
But we do know that Alzheimer’s causes a disruption between neurons early on. This causes the neurons to lose the ability to communicate with one another. As this occurs, the brain shrinks and the different stages of Alzheimer’s begin to unfold.
Those affected early on will begin to lose their short-term memory. They’ll forget where they put things, or names of people they’ve recently met.
In later stages, people with Alzheimer’s will forget important life events. Their personalities will change. In severe cases, many require round-the-clock care.
Lewy Body Dementia
What are some of the most common forms of dementia in addition to Alzheimer’s? Lewy body dementia is another common type that’s frequently misdiagnosed. It’s often referred to simply as Lewy bodies.
Lewy body dementia not only causes memory loss and progressive mental decline. It causes visual hallucinations, personality changes, and cognitive difficulties, as well. Many characterize Lewy bodies as embodying a blend of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Hallucinations are often one of the earliest symptoms of the disease. Those with the disease may hallucinate objects, people, sounds, or smells. Physical tremors, delayed movements, and muscle rigidity are also common.
Arising sleep problems are another hallmark sign of Lewy bodies. Those affected tend to act out their dreams. Depression, loss of motivation, and sporadic lapses of mental clarity are also common.
When protein deposits build up in neurons, it can cause brain plaque and tangles. This causes a loss of communication between neurons and eventual brain cell death.
In many ways, the causes and many of symptoms resemble Alzheimer’s. But the physical symptoms, like muscle stiffness, are more like Parkinson’s.
With certain dementia types, a loss in neuron communication causes brain cell death. But this is not the only cause of dementia, nor are Alzheimer’s and Lewy bodies the only types.
When our brains don’t receive an adequate flow of oxygen from blood, it can cause brain cell death. After a stroke, it’s not uncommon for our brains to experience this. But a lack of blood flow to the brain can happen naturally as the result of age.
This can lead to one of the most common types of dementia, known as vascular dementia. The symptoms of vascular dementia hinge on the severity of the damage in the brain and its blood vessels.
After a stroke, visual impairment, confusion, and speech problems can arise. But drastic personality changes occur after a stroke often indicate vascular dementia.
Those affected will struggle to concentrate, adhere to plans, and understand situations. They may struggle to translate their thoughts into words. Sporadic laughing and crying spells are also not uncommon.
Whereas some forms of dementia progress slowly, others develop at a much faster rate. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is one of the rarest and most fatal types of dementia. Those diagnosed will usually pass away within a year.
What causes Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease? Unlike other dementia types, CJD is a type of prion disease. It alters the shape of the prion protein, which is present throughout our bodies. As this occurs, it causes a rapid decline in memory and cognition.
CJD also causes extreme personality change, mood swings, depression, and disorientation. It quickly leads to muscle degeneration, twitching, and stiffness, as well.
Dementia can affect the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. This is otherwise known as frontotemporal dementia and it’s one of the more common types.
The frontal and temporal lobes of the brain correlate with many important functions. We process sensory input from our external environment through the temporal lobe. We process our emotional and cognitive thoughts through the frontal lobe.
When damage and brain cell death occur in these areas, it not only leads to forgetfulness. It can cause speech problems, compulsive behavior, and apathy.
Unlike some forms of dementia, FTD can affect younger adults. There have been cases of people having FTD in their 40’s and 50’s.
Other Forms of Dementia
Unfortunately, there are many different types of dementia beyond the ones we’ve discussed. If you suspect a loved one has dementia, it’s important to get a proper diagnosis. That way, they receive the best treatment possible for their individual case.
What are some other dementia types that may or may not be affecting someone you love?
Mixed dementia, which involves more than one type of dementia, is common. There are also brain disorders that can cause memory loss and other function loss.
For example, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a brain disorder often associated with dementia. It’s a blend of Wernicke’s syndrome and Korsakoff syndrome.
Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is not a form of dementia. But it does cause problems with memory and information processing nonetheless.
Need Help Understanding the Different Types of Dementia?
There is, in fact, more than one type of dementia. But understanding dementia goes well beyond knowing what different kinds there are.
Lifestyle, treatment, and dementia research are all important areas to stay aware of. Our senior living news can help you stay current on everything there is to know about the different types of dementia.
But what if you suspect that someone you love has a form of dementia? Or, if you a loved one has a diagnosis, you may not know what the next step is. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.