Dementia is a general term that describes symptoms affecting memory, reasoning, and social abilities. For someone to be diagnosed with dementia, the symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with daily life. Dementia isn’t a specific disease; it’s a collection of symptoms caused by a disease. 

If you or a loved one is experiencing memory loss, behaviour changes, and other symptoms that aren’t normal, you may be concerned about dementia.

In this post, we’ll go over the different types of dementia and the common symptoms.

Types of Dementia

There are many types of dementia. You or your loved one’s treatment options will depend on the type diagnosed.

Alzheimer’s Disease

The most common type of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, is a progressive disease that begins with mild memory loss, leading to the inability to carry on a conversation and respond to the environment.

A person with Alzheimer’s disease may:

  • Have memory problems
  • Have trouble with tasks that require organisation and planning
  • Have trouble finding the right words
  • Have trouble handling money
  • Repeat questions over and over
  • Become confused in unfamiliar situations and environments

Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia is caused by reduced blood flow to the brain, often a result of a stroke. It affects almost a third of people over 70. For people with vascular dementia, symptoms may vary depending on the part of the brain where blood flow is impaired.

Someone with vascular dementia may experience:

  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Speech problems
  • Poor balance
  • Impaired planning and judgement
  • Difficulty finding the right words

Dementia With Lewy Bodies (DIB)

People with Lewy body have abnormal clumps of protein on their brains. Lewy body dementia is the third most common dementia, after Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

Someone with Lewy body dementia may experience:

  • Hallucinations
  • Problems with focus and attention
  • Problems with mobility, including hunched posture, rigid muscles, slow movement, shuffling walk, etc.)
  • Muscle tremors

Parkinson’s Disease Dementia

Parkinson’s disease dementia begins in the part of the brain that controls movement. When it spreads, it begins to affect certain mental functions, such as remembering details and paying attention. 

Patients with Parkinson’s disease dementia may have the following motor symptoms:

  • Tremors
  • Shakiness
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Shuffling step
  • Stooped posture

Cognitive symptoms of Parkinson’s include:

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Difficulty making sound judgements 
  • Difficulty implementing steps needed to complete a task

Mixed Dementia

Mixed dementia is a combination of more than one type of dementia. The symptoms of mixed dementia vary depending on the type of dementia. In some cases, symptoms of one type of dementia may be more pronounced than others.

Common types of mixed dementia include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia: The most common type of mixed dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, may cause an individual to process thoughts more slowly, have difficulties planning or solving problems, and have trouble processing information.
  • Alzheimer’s disease and Lewy body disease: People with Alzheimer’s disease and Lewy body disease may experience a combination of cognitive, psychological, and behavioural changes. For example, they may have disturbed sleep, visual hallucinations, confusion, and an inability to function properly.

Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD)

FTD is characterised by cell damage in areas of the brain that control speech, planning, judgement, movement, and emotions. FTD is a more uncommon type of dementia.

There are two types of FTD: behavioural variant FTD and primary progressive aphasia (PPA). Behavioural FTD mainly causes problems with behaviour and personality. PPA often causes language problems.

Someone with FTD may have:

  • Personality and behaviour changes

  • Language problems

  • Problems with cognitive ability

  • Memory problems

  • Difficulty focusing on tasks

  • Loss of inhibitions

  • Repetitive or obsessive tendencies

Huntington’s Disease

Caused by a genetic mutation, Huntington’s disease causes the degeneration of specific nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

Symptoms of Huntington’s disease usually develop between ages 30 and 50. In the earlier stages of Huntington’s, an individual may experience:

  • A severe decline in cognitive ability
  • Stumbling and clumsiness
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory lapses

Over time, symptoms often get worse. A person with Huntington’s at later stages may have difficulties with:

  • Swallowing
  • Speech
  • Stiffness
  • Walking and mobility
  • Involuntary jerking

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is an unusually fast-acting type of dementia. The disease is rare, affecting only about 1 in one million people yearly worldwide.

The main types of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease are:

  • Sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease: Develops for no known reason, accounts for 85% of cases
  • Familial Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease: Caused by genetics, accounts for about 10 to 15% of cases
  • Acquired Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease: Caused by an external source such as medical procedures or meat sourced from cattle infected with “mad cow disease”, account for one per cent of cases.

Symptoms of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease include:

  • Loss of intellect and memory
  • Personality and behavioural changes
  • Slurred speech
  • Vision problems
  • Insomnia
  • Balance and coordination problems

Increasing Your Awareness of Dementia and Its Different Types

If you notice that you or your loved one is experiencing personality changes and problems with memory, then it’s a good idea to talk to your GP. He or she will do a medical examination to see if your symptoms warrant a dementia diagnosis and recommend a treatment plan. Knowing the common symptoms of dementia and what to look out for is vital to getting the best possible treatment.

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