Dementia is a broad term for many different types of dementia. With Alzheimer’s being the most common form of dementia, it’s probably the term you most generally hear.
The NHS defines dementia as:
Dementia is a syndrome (a group of related symptoms) associated with an ongoing decline of brain functioning.NHS Dementia Guide
Dementia symptoms can include problems with:
- difficulties carrying out daily activities
- memory loss
- thinking speed
- mental sharpness and quickness
What are the different types of dementia?
The multiple types of dementia each have their own signs, symptoms, causes, and treatments. There are four types of dementia:
- Alzheimer’s disease (AD)
- Vascular Dementia (VaD)
- Lewy Body Dementia (LBD)
- Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD)
The exact causes of the different types of dementia are unknown. But there are risk factors that are believed to make it more likely. These include:
- Advanced age (the most common risk groups are the over 65s)
- A family history of the condition has been shown to increase the risk
- Untreated depression, although this can also be a symptom of Alzheimer’s so it’s not always clear.
- lifestyle factors and conditions associated with cardiovascular disease
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of Dementia in the UK and symptoms can develop slowly over many years.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s are:
- Disorientation causing the sufferer to get lost even in familiar spaces they’ve known for a while.
- Difficulty looking forward or making decisions.
- Language problems and issues affecting speech.
- Problems moving around without assistance or performing self-care tasks.
- Personality changes, such as becoming aggressive, demanding and suspicious of others.
- Seeing, hearing or believing things that are not there or are untrue (hallucinations and delusions).
- Low mood or anxiety.
- Language problems and issues affecting speech.
What is Vascular Dementia?
Vascular Dementia is the second most common type of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. Similar to Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia causes a decline in an individual’s thinking skills. However, it is because of conditions that block or reduce blood flow to the brain, which deprives the brain of oxygen and nutrients.
Symptoms of Vascular Dementia
Many of the symptoms of vascular dementia are similar to that of other forms of dementia, especially Alzheimer’s. However, these symptoms are often experienced soon after a major stroke. These symptoms include:
- Confusion and disorientation
- Difficulty speaking and understanding conversations
- Vision loss
- Sudden headaches
What is Lewy Body Dementia
Lewy Body Dementia can occur alone, or together with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. This form of dementia takes place when abnormal deposits of protein (Lewy bodies) affect the area of the brain that promotes thinking and physical movement. Essentially, the Lewy bodies interrupt the brain’s messages to the body.
Symptoms of Lewy Body Dementia
An individual with Lewy body dementia may show similar signs and symptoms as someone with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. These symptoms of early-stage Lewy body dementia include:
- Loss of memory, language, and reasoning
- Inability to calculate numbers and find the right word when speaking
- Symptoms of depression and anxiety
As the disease progresses, individuals with Lewy body dementia may experience visual hallucinations and errors in perception. For example, the individual may see a person’s face in the pattern of wallpaper. Patients can also experience symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease, including tremors and stiffness of muscles.
Frontotemporal Dementia is actually an umbrella term for a group of disorders that affect the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. These areas of the brain are associated specifically with a person’s personality and behaviour.
In some cases of frontotemporal dementia, the brain cells in the frontal and temporal lobes shrink, while in other cases, the brain cells get larger. When the brain cells get larger, they contain
Symptoms of Frontotemporal Dementia
Frontotemporal dementia often occurs at a younger age than other forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease. However, unlike Alzheimer’s disease, a person with early stages of frontotemporal dementia will not have memory loss, or difficulty comprehending time. The early symptoms of frontotemporal dementia that you should look out for include:
- Difficulty with speech and conversations. Repetition of thoughts and stuttering may also occur
- Behavioural issues including emotional outbursts, decreased motivation, and apathy
- Loss of interest in maintaining personal hygiene
- Overeating and compulsively putting objects in their mouth
It isn’t until the later stages of the disease that the general symptoms of dementia begin to occur – these include confusion, forgetfulness, and loss of motor skills.