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Mixed dementia: What you need to know

If you’ve only just heard about mixed dementia you probably want to find out more about the condition. Here’s all the essential information about mixed dementia

In a nutshell

A diagnosis of mixed dementia means that you have more than one type of dementia. The most likely combination is of the two most common forms; Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. However, mixed dementia can involve other types too, such as dementia with Lewy bodies.

3 facts worth knowing

1. At least 10 per cent of people with dementia are diagnosed with mixed dementia, although scientists now believe it may affect far more than this.
2. Mixed dementia may become more common with age
3 Mixed dementia is difficult to diagnose. In fact, a diagnosis of mixed dementia is more likely to come during a brain autopsy, than during life.

What actually happens

Many people with mixed dementia might not know they have it as the numerous brain changes it involves are so difficult to detect. Instead, they will probably be diagnosed with the type of dementia that most matches their symptoms, which is often Alzheimer’s.

Here’s the science

The most common form of mixed dementia (Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia) will involve brain changes associated with the abnormal protein deposits of Alzheimer’s (amyloid plaques) as well as the typical blood clots of vascular dementia. If dementia with Lewy bodies is also part of the diagnosis its key characteristics (ie the abnormal ‘Lewy body’ protein deposits) will also be present.

Sadly, the true extent of the damage caused by mixed dementia in the brain can currently only be revealed during autopsy, but research is ongoing.

Good to know

• Although there’s no specific treatment for mixed dementia, scientific studies have shown that it responds well to the same medications as those given for Alzheimer’s disease.

• As research continues to grow, it’s likely that mixed dementia will be increasingly diagnosed – and treated – during life.