Most of you are probably familiar with one of the most common types of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease. It is important to mention that in addition to Alzheimer’s; under the umbrella of Dementia, we have many other different forms of dementia.
So what do we know about dementia? Dementia itself is not a disease it is an umbrella term for the symptoms caused by the following diseases, symptoms of such being: memory loss, confusion and change in the personality.
While it’s true that the majority of the people living with dementia are around 65 and above, it doesn’t necessary mean that an older adult will immediately develop dementia when they are getting old. Dementia is not a natural part of ageing. In fact, In the UK over 40,000 people under 65 have dementia.
Dementia is more than just memory loss; it affects people in many different other ways such as changes in behaviour, confusion and disorientation. Some people can even experience a few different types of the dementia at the same time, which is called “Mixed Dementia”
The Different types of Dementia have similar symptoms; Let’s take a look at 8 types of Dementia:
1. Alzheimer’s Disease:
This type of dementia is probably the most well-known type of dementia around the world. The cause behind Alzheimer’s disease is not well understood yet, but the most distinguishing feature of Alzheimer’s disease is the build-up of amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain. It’s widely believed that these brain changes are behind the disease. The early signs of the disease are usually, slowness of thought, vision loss, anxiety and depression.
- Memory loss
- Difficulty communicating
Unfortunately there is no cure or treatment for this disease. The Alzheimer’s Association says, “At this time there is no treatment or cure, delay or stopping the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.” Scientists are working on these issues and are constantly researching and trying to find a cure or treatment that will prevent the disease.
Vascular dementia is also known as “multi-infarct dementia” or “post-stroke dementia”.It is caused by an impaired supply of blood to the brain, or may be caused by a series of small strokes. The early signs of the disease are usually, slowness of thought, trouble with language, difficulty with planning mood and behaviour changes.
- Memory loss
- Impaired judgment
- Decrease ability to plan
- Loss of motivation
This type of dementia can’t be cured, much like Alzheimer’s, numerous medication and therapies may be used to help manage the symptoms.
3. Lewy Body Dementia:
This is the third most common cause of dementia, also called “cortical Lewy body disease” or “diffuse Lewy body disease”. Estimated to affect more than 100,000 people in the UK. This type of dementia shares characteristics with both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
- Sleep problems
- Memory loss
- Frequent swings in alertness
There’s is no cure for this type, but “as with Alzheimer’s and other the other main types of dementia, a wide array of therapies and treatment are used to improve the patient’s quality of life and alleviate symptoms.”
4. Frontotemporal Dementia:
This type of dementia is very rare, but believed to be the fourth most common type of dementia. This type is more about emotional changes than cognitive impairment. In fact, here memory is preserved in people living with frontotemporal dementia. “Frontotemporal dementia occurs when the frontal or temporal lobes of the brain are damaged or shrink.”
- Decreased inhibition (frequently leading to inappropriate behaviour)
- Apathy and loss of motivation
- Decreased empathy
- Repetitive of compulsive behaviours
- Anxiety and depression
Just like the previous types of dementia this one also can’t be cured or reversed.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurological disorder that occurs when certain neurons in the brain die or become impaired. the nerve cells that control the muscles movement get damaged.
- Sluggish movement, stiffness and challenges with balance
- Hand cramps, shuffling, frozen facial expressions
- Muffled speech patters and depression
Unfortunately there is no cure for this disease either. “While Parkinson’s disease in the elderly remains an irreversible and progressive disease, several medications are now used to treat and control its symptoms. These medications have been so effective at helping people live with PD that surgery is usually only considered after medications have been tried and given time to work.”
6. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease:
(CJD) is a rare and fatal condition that affects the brain. It causes brain damage that worsens rapidly over time. Sadly, most of the people will die within 1 year after diagnosis from infection. The cause of this type of dementia is “by an abnormal infectious protein called a Prion. These prions accumulate at high levels in the brain and cause irreversible damage to nerve cells”.
- Loss of intellect and memory
- Change in personality
- Loss of balance and co-ordination
- Slurred speech
- Vision problems and blindness
- Abnormal jerking movements
- Progressive loss of brain function and mobility
There is no cure for this rare type of dementia, there are only a few medications that can relive the pain and symptoms such as antidepressants to help with anxiety and depression, and painkillers to relieve pain.
Also known as ‘Huntington’s chorea’, is an inherited disorder that results in death of brain cells. It is Caused by a single defective gene on chromosome 4, The gene defect causes abnormalities in a brain protein that, over time, lead to worsening symptoms. “Every child of a parent who carries the HD gene has a 50% chance of inheriting the abnormal gene. Pre-symptomatic testing, can determine whether someone is likely to develop the disease. A child who inherits the Huntington’s gene will eventually develop the illness, although onset typically does not occur until ages 35-50 or later.“
- Development of tics (involuntary movement) in the fingers, feet, face, or trunk
- Increased clumsiness
- Loss of coordination and balance
- Slurred speech
- Jaw clenching or teeth grinding
- Difficulty swallowing or eating
- Continual muscular contractions
- Stumbling or falling
Although there is not yet a cure for Huntington’s disease, the research being carried out is encouraging in terms of slowing the progression of the disease.
Alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD) is a brain disorder caused by regularly drinking too much alcohol over several years.Alcohol is one of the risk factors for dementia. “The NHS recommended limits are now a maximum of 14 units each week for men and women, spread over 3 or more days – although lower limits have been suggested for older people because their bodies handle alcohol differently.”
Symptoms of Wernicke Encephalopathy include:
- Confusion and loss of mental activity that can progress to coma and death
- Loss of muscle coordination(ataxia) that can cause leg tremor
- Vision changes such asabnormal eye movements (back and forth movements called Nystagmus), double vision, eyelid drooping
- Alcohol withdrawal
Symptoms of Korsakoff syndrome:
- Inability to form new memories
- Loss of memory, can be severe
- Making up stories (confabulation)
- Seeing or hearing things that are not really there (hallucinations)
Unlike other types of dementia, this one can be prevented by not drinking alcohol or drinking less as recommended above. Also getting enough nutrition reduces the risk of developing Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.
If you’re concerned for your health or anyone else’s regarding the above, it is advised that you seek advice from your GP or local medical centre where a correct diagnosis for any symptoms can be determined.