Understanding the different types of dementia

There are more than one hundred diseases that come under the umbrella term ‘dementia’, with a huge array of symptoms.  Recognising the common forms of dementia is hugely important in keeping an eye out for any potential symptoms or understanding someone’s condition better.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease  is the most common form of dementia. As Alzheimer’s disease begins its process, there is a vast change in the structure of the brain; the brain shrinks in size, brain cells die, and plaque and tangles form in brain tissue, disrupting messages between brain cells. The process of Alzheimer’s disease is relatively gradual, especially in terms of their ability to remember things.

The symptoms linked to Alzheimer’s disease include:

  • memory loss – A decline in ability to take in and remember new information such as constantly misplacing items, and repeating conversations or questions
  • difficulty communicating – This may be in the form of losing interest in a conversation easily
  • anxiety – Feelings of loss of control or moments of panic.

Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia is the second most common cause of dementia. It is brought on when the brain withstands some form of damage which limits blood supply to the brain. More specifically, if the vascular system within the brain is harmed in any way, blood cannot reach the brain; this will result in brain cells dying. This, then in turn, leads to loss of memory and problems with thinking or reasoning.

Further symptoms include:

  • a decreased ability to make plans
  • a huge loss in motivation
  • vision loss
  • confusion. 

Lewy Body Dementia

Lewy Body dementia is the third most common cause of dementia.  Lewy body is an umbrella term for two related diagnoses, dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease dementia. Lewy bodies are abnormal aggregates of protein that develop inside nerve cells. Lewy body dementia is brought on when these proteins appear and then in turn, impair functioning of the brain.

Symptoms of Lewy body dementia include:

  • problems with sleeping and sleep patterns
  • parkinson’s symptoms, such as balance problems, rigid muscles and a hunched posture
  • possible hallucinations and delusions
  • trouble understanding visual information.
Older man laughs next to son/grandson

Frontotemporal Dementia

Fronto-temporal dementia is the name given to dementia when there is degeneration in one or both of the frontal or temporal lobes of the brain. Including ‘Pick's disease’, it is a relatively rare type of dementia usually affecting people under the age of 65.

Symptoms of frontotemporal dementia include:

  • a significant change in personality, such as becoming extremely extroverted when previously introverted
  • inappropriate behaviour and loss of inhibitions
  • a decrease in ability to empathise
  • anxiety or depression
  • compulsive or repetitive behaviours
  • experience a reduction in, or lack of, speech.