Learn about the common forms of dementia.

This article focuses on dementia, including the most common forms of dementia, its causes, and symptoms. 

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a non-specific clinical syndrome that involves cognitive impairments of sufficient severity to interfere with occupational or social functioning. Dementia interferes with daily functioning and is characterized by at least two brain functions – reasoning, attention, memory, language or problem solving. Symptoms of dementia include limited social skills, forgetfulness, and impaired thinking abilities. Some individuals with dementia are unable to control their emotions; their personalities may even change.

Dementia is very common as individuals age. Many forms of dementia progress through different stages, getting worse as the disease advances. Cases of dementia vary from the mildest stage when an individual’s functioning starts to become affected, to the most severe stage when an individual is unable to fully take care of themselves and needs complete assistance. 

The most common types of dementia include Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and Lewy body dementia. 

Alzheimer’s Disease 

There are many types of dementia, but Alzheimer’s disease is the most common one of all, making up 60-80% of the cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that may begin with mild memory loss and confusion with symptoms worsening over time. Changes that interfere with normal brain functioning, such as abnormal buildups of plaques, or protein deposits, may contribute to nerve cell damage, which can affect memory.

Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia. It occurs because of microscopic bleeding and blood vessel blockage in the brain. In vascular dementia, a decline in thinking skills is most common, and symptoms may occur after a stroke.

Frontotemporal Dementia

This is a rare form of dementia that occurs most often in individuals under the age of 60 and is named for nerve cell loss in the frontal and temporal lobes in the brain. There are different forms of Frontotemporal dementia, with the most common form affecting behavior and personality. This type of dementia is characterized by abnormal amounts of tau proteins or TDP-43, which may contribute to the deterioration of nerve cells. 

Lewy Body Dementia

This is a form of dementia that occurs due to abnormal deposits of the protein alpha-synuclein in the brain. With Lewy body dementia, early symptoms more likely involve movement, such as rigid muscles, a slow or shuffling walk, or a hunched posture. Other cognitive symptoms may be similar to those of Alzheimer’s disease.

Symptoms and Signs of Dementia 

Signs of dementia can vary, and symptoms may be mild at first and get worse over time. If you or someone you love is exhibiting any concerning symptoms, see a doctor to determine if they may be related to dementia. Some of the common symptoms are as follows:

  • Issues remembering appointments
  • Problems with short term memory
  • Issues keeping track of purse, wallet, phone, or any small device 
  • Misplacing things 
  • Repeating questions
  • Mood or behavior changes
  • Confusion about time or place
  • Disorientation
  • Trouble speaking
  • Problems with usual tasks

Causes

Dementia is believed to be caused by damage to brain cells. This damage gets in the way of the ability of brain cells to communicate with one another. Feelings, thinking, and behavior can be affected when brain cells can’t communicate normally. There are numerous distinct regions in the brain, and each is responsible for different functions, such as movement, memory, and judgment. A region won’t be able to carry out its functions accurately if cells in a certain region are damaged. 

Diagnosis 

In order to determine whether a person is suffering from dementia, a clinical examination should take place. Doctors assess a person’s medical history, symptoms, test results, physical examination, and behavior to determine if further testing or evaluation by a specialist is needed. Since there is no one test to diagnose dementia, doctors may perform different tests, including a neurological exam, memory assessments, or brain imaging tests. Electroencephalograms, which are special tests, may be performed to record electrical activity of the brain when there are unusual causes of dementia that could take place. 

Treatment 

Although there is no cure for dementia, therapies and medications may help manage symptoms or even slow the progression of disease.

Preventions 

Although an individual can’t prevent dementia, here are some steps that may help decrease the risk:

  • Get enough nutrients 
  • Quit smoking/drinking
  • Keep mind active
  • Be physically active 
  • Maintain a healthy diet 
  • Receive enough sleep 

The signs of dementia start out slowly and gradually worsen over time. If you or someone you love is experiencing memory struggles or notices other changes, don’t ignore the signs. See a doctor right away to determine the causes and to receive a proper evaluation. Early diagnosis allows an individual to receive the greatest benefit from treatments and provides time for future planning, which is vastly important.

AnswerCare’s compassionate caregivers are available to provide respite care for family caregivers and in-home care services that help older adults remain safely and comfortably at home. We offer specialized Alzheimer’s and dementia care in Cleveland and the surrounding areas. Contact us online or by phone at 855.213.1511 with any questions you may have or to schedule a free in-home consultation to discuss how our caregiving solutions may help you or a loved one.