Different Types of Dementia: What is Dementia & More

Dementia is a broad term for many brain conditions that worsen over time.1 Alzheimer’s, the most common type, affects up to 70% of those with dementia.1 In America, about 6.5 million people over 65 have Alzheimer’s. This article will explain various dementias, including their causes, symptoms, and treatments. We’ll also talk about the latest research. And give tips for preventing, coping with, and supporting those with dementia.

Key Takeaways

  • Dementia is an umbrella term describing a range of neurological conditions that worsen over time.
  • Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting up to 70% of people with dementia worldwide.
  • Other types of dementia include vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and mixed dementia.
  • Dementia can be caused by various factors, including age, genetics, lifestyle, and underlying health conditions.
  • Early detection and proper management of dementia symptoms are crucial for improving quality of life.

Understanding Dementia: An Overview

Dementia is when a person faces a drop in their mental abilities. This includes memory, thinking, and reasoning skills, affecting daily life.2 It happens because brain cells are damaged, and this can be from things like Alzheimer’s, stroke, or other conditions.2

What is Dementia?

It’s a group of symptoms that impact memory, thinking, and reasoning. Those with dementia might find daily tasks hard, see changes in how they act or feel, and face language or problem-solving troubles.

Causes and Risk Factors of Dementia

Common causes are Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and frontotemporal dementia.2 Things like age, your genes, lifestyle, and health issues (such as heart disease or diabetes) can make you more likely to develop dementia.2

Early Signs and Symptoms of Dementia

Early signs are memory loss, trouble with language or problem-solving, changes in mood or personality, and difficulty in daily tasks.2 As dementia progresses, these signs may get more severe and vary by the type of dementia.

Alzheimer’s Disease: The Most Common Form of Dementia

Alzheimer’s disease is the top dementia type, making up 60-80% of cases.3 It’s a brain condition that gets worse over time. The main signs are forgetting, trouble thinking, and a drop in other brain skills. Most patients are 65 or older. After diagnosis, life span can vary from 4 to 8 years, with some living up to 20 years longer.3

Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s moves through three main stages: early, middle, and late. As it goes on, symptoms get more severe. 20% of people without symptoms may have early Alzheimer’s brain signs. Not everyone with these signs will get dementia.3

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

Finding Alzheimer’s often involves memory tests, looking at your health history, and brain scans. Despite no cure for Alzheimer’s, some therapies and drugs can help ease symptoms and slow the disease.3 Drugs like aducanumab and lecanemab seem to reduce memory loss in Alzheimer’s.3 The disease was first noted by Dr. Alois Alzheimer in 1906. Since then, breakthroughs in research have been key.3

Alzheimer's disease

Vascular Dementia: Caused by Stroke or Other Vascular Conditions

Vascular dementia is the second most common type, making up 10% of cases4. It happens when there’s less blood flow to the brain. This can be from a stroke or other issues that damage or block blood vessels. People with this type of dementia might have trouble solving problems, think slower, and find planning hard.

Things like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease make you more likely to get vascular dementia5. This risk goes up with age, especially over 65. If you’ve had heart attacks, strokes, or ministrokes before, your risk is higher5.

Vascular dementia is often seen with other types of dementia, making it a mixed type4. It might not always be recognized. After a stroke, people who end up with dementia live about three years more4.

There are no FDA-approved drugs just for vascular dementia4. The focus is on keeping it from getting worse by managing health conditions like high blood pressure. Doctors also advise screening people at high risk for problems with thinking4.

To help decrease your risk of vascular dementia, it’s important to keep your health in check. This means watching your blood pressure, managing diabetes, and not smoking. Getting regular exercise and looking after your heart health is crucial too5. As you get older, make sure to check on your blood vessels, as diseases like atherosclerosis can play a part in vascular dementia5.

Lewy Body Dementia: Characterized by Abnormal Protein Deposits

Lewy body dementia, or LBD, is marked by Lewy bodies in the brain.6 It’s the third most common form of dementia, following Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.7 It often strikes those over 50, usually affecting slightly more men than women.8

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia

People with LBD may experience changes in thinking, see things not there, have trouble moving, and sleep differently.6 Seeing things that aren’t real is common, happening in about 80% of LBD patients early on.8 A diagnosis is made through tests, history, and sometimes brain scans.

Managing Lewy Body Dementia

Therapy, medicine, and changes in lifestyle can help with LBD symptoms.6 While there’s no cure yet, care plans can make a big difference in how someone lives with LBD.6 Ongoing research aims to improve how we understand and treat LBD.6

Caring for LBD is not easy because it comes with many symptoms that change. By knowing more about LBD and the best care practices, both doctors and families can support those with the condition the right way.

lewy body dementia

Frontotemporal Dementia: Affecting the Frontal and Temporal Lobes

Frontotemporal dementia, or FTD, targets the frontal and temporal brain lobes. These areas control our personality, behavior, and speech. FTD impacts those between 40 and 65 years old, unlike Alzheimer’s. It is the root of 10% to 20% of dementia cases.9

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Types of Frontotemporal Dementia

FTD comes in several forms, such as behavioral variant FTD and primary progressive aphasia. Other types include semantic dementia and progressive agrammatic aphasia. Rarely, FTD may cause symptoms linked to Parkinson’s or ALS.9

Behavioral Changes and Personality Shifts

FTD can alter a person’s character, leading to things like apathy or lack of control. It also affects language and decision-making. Emotional issues may include inappropriate social acts and a lack of empathy. Other changes may involve unusual habits and eating behaviors.9

In people with FTD, language problems like difficulty with speech and word-finding can arise. Roughly 60% of FTD cases are found in people aged 45 to 64. The effects on lifespan vary greatly. Some might live over 10 years post-diagnosis, while others could survive less than two.10

While some FTD cases stem from genetic changes, most are of unknown cause. Rare familial FTD cases, less than 5% of all cases, can be genetic.10

About 10 to 30% of bvFTD cases may have specific genetic roots. The MAPT gene, when faulty, can lead brain cells to slowly cease from a condition known as bvFTD. Another gene, GRN, when mutated, may lead to TDP-43 protein issues, causing various forms of FTD. C9ORF72 gene changes are common in familial FTD and ALS. These conditions may cause frontotemporal disorders or ALS.10

More than half of FTD cases have no previous family history of dementia. So far, no other leading risk factors for FTD have been identified.9

Mixed Dementia: A Combination of Multiple Types

Mixed dementia means having two or more types of dementia at once. For example, someone might have Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. Or, they could have Alzheimer’s and Lewy body dementia.11 This mix causes a special set of symptoms and makes the disease more complicated.12 Figuring out if someone has mixed dementia is hard. It needs a close look at their medical past, brain tests, and thinking tests.12

We don’t know exactly how many people with dementia actually have mixed dementia.12 But, studies after death show it might be more common than we thought.1213 If someone has heart problems and their dementia gets worse slowly, doctors should check for mixed dementia.12

Living in a way that’s good for your brain is key in treating mixed dementia’s effects and lowering the risk.12 Some people might get better with drugs for Alzheimer’s and other treatments, depending on their symptoms.12 In the U.S., the Alzheimer’s Association has info on symptoms, finding out if you have it, risk parts, and treatment for mixed dementia.12 In Canada, Rare Dementia Support has experts who can give you information and help if you have a rare kind of dementia.

Knowing the specific mix of dementias is crucial for the right treatment plan.121311 Even though mixed dementia is very challenging, we’re making progress. Research and new support are making life better for those with this mix.

what is dementia and what types are there

Dementia covers a range of cognitive issues. This includes memory loss and trouble solving problems. It also brings changes in mood and how a person acts.2 Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and frontotemporal dementia are some types. Each has its unique causes, symptoms, and how it progresses.2 Knowing these differences is key to getting the right help and care.

Understanding the Different Forms of Dementia

Alzheimer’s is the most common type, found in 60-80% of cases.14 It’s followed by vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and frontotemporal dementia.1514 Each one damages the brain in its own way.14

For Alzheimer’s, there’s a build-up of harmful proteins in the brain. This leads to cell damage and communication problems.15 Vascular dementia comes from brain blood vessels getting damaged, often from a stroke.15 Lewy body dementia shows abnormal protein clumps in the brain. It leads to changing thoughts, seeing things that aren’t there, and acting like someone with Parkinson’s.15 Frontotemporal dementia affects parts that control how we act and speak. It brings unique changes in how someone behaves and talks.15

Some people may have more than one type of dementia, which is called mixed dementia.14 This mix adds different symptoms and makes the disease harder to understand.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Various Dementias

The signs of dementia change based on the type and what part of the brain it hurts.2 Early signs include trouble remembering, speaking, and doing daily tasks. There’s also mood changes.2

In Alzheimer’s, first symptoms are usually memory issues and trouble speaking and solving problems.15 Vascular dementia shows a step-by-step drop in thinking ability. This includes problems in solving issues and thinking quickly.15 Lewy body dementia fluctuates in how well one can think. It comes with seeing things that aren’t there and muscle problems.15 Frontotemporal dementia can show up as not caring, acting without thought, and finding it hard to talk or understand others.15

It’s important to spot the different symptoms early. This helps get the right care sooner.21514

Diagnosis and Screening for Dementia

Diagnosing dementia involves tests to check thinking and memory, and physical exams.2 These help doctors separate dementia from other brain conditions.2

Cognitive and Neurological Assessments

Tests on memory and solving problems show how the mind is working.2 Physical checks, like reflex and sensation tests, are done too. They help rule out other diseases.

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Imaging Tests and Biomarkers

Brain scans, such as MRI or PET, show brain changes linked to dementia.2 Blood tests that look at certain proteins can also point towards the type of dementia.2

If a family has a history of dementia, genetic tests may help understand risks. However, these tests don’t diagnose dementia.2 A spinal fluid test can be more direct in diagnosing Alzheimer’s and other dementias. It looks at the levels of specific substances in the fluid.2

Treating and Managing Dementia Symptoms

Most types of dementia don’t have a cure. But, we have medicines and therapies to help handle symptoms and slow down the disease.14 Medicines like cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine can make cognitive function better for some people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.14 Therapies like cognitive rehab, occupational therapy, and music therapy are also good. They help with cognitive, behavioral, and functional issues linked to dementia.

Medications and Therapies

Cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine help with dementia symptoms. They can boost or keep stable cognitive function, memory, and daily activities of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.14 Besides drugs, therapies like cognitive rehab and music therapy are important. These non-medical treatments help with the challenges of dementia. They keep cognitive skills sharp, boost daily skills, and make life better for those with dementia.

Lifestyle Modifications and Caregiver Support

Changing how we live can be key in dealing with dementia. It not only helps the person with dementia but their caregivers too.14 A diet that’s good for the brain, regular exercise, and keeping the mind active can slow down dementia.14 Also, support and info for caregivers can prepare families and friends to face the daily issues of caring for someone with dementia.

Preventing Dementia: Lifestyle Factors and Risk Reduction

The main causes of most dementia types aren’t clear. But, we’re learning that some ways of living can lower risk. Studies show that being active and learning a lot might help keep dementia away.16

Brain-Healthy Diet and Exercise

A diet good for the brain includes fruits, veggies, whole grains, and good fats. This kind of food can keep your mind sharp and lower the chance of dementia.16

Working out often has great effects on the brain, too. It boosts blood flow, cuts down on inflammation, and helps make new brain cells.16

Cognitive Stimulation and Social Engagement

Doing things that challenge your mind, like learning something new or playing games, can help. It might put off dementia or slow it down.17

Having a good social life is important, too. It can make your brain stronger and cut the risk of dementia.17

It’s also key to look after your health in several ways. This includes keeping your blood pressure and sugar in check, staying a healthy weight, and more. And remember, it’s important to treat hearing issues, sleep well, avoid head injuries, and cut down on alcohol and tobacco.16 We need more studies to know for sure which lifestyle changes are really effective.16

We’re still looking into what exactly causes most types of dementia. But, we see that certain lifestyle choices can play a big part in staying healthy.1617 Choosing to eat well, exercise, stay sharp, and keep up social connections can make a difference. These steps might slow dementia or make it start later.

Dementia Research: Ongoing Studies and Clinical Trials

The world of dementia research is changing fast. Scientists are working hard in studies and trials. They aim to learn more about what causes different types of dementia research. They also hope to make new dementia treatments that work better.18 There are many kinds of treatments being tried. These include using new drugs, vaccines, and other ways that don’t involve medicine.18

Exploring New Treatment Options

A new drug was given the go-ahead by the FDA in 2023. It’s the first one that can slow down early Alzheimer’s. This is a big step forward. But, more research is needed to fight Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Scientists want to find new ways to catch and treat these diseases. They are also trying to see if we can prevent them.18 If someone with dementia joins a study, the researchers make sure they get all the information they need. This helps them understand what it’s about and decide if they want to be part of it.18

Advancements in Alzheimer’s and Dementia Research

Advances in technology, like brain scans and genetic tests, are giving us more clues. These could one day help us spot dementia earlier and treat it in a more personal way.18 All this research is not just to find a cure. It’s to make life better for those with dementia and their families. Also, to hopefully stop it from happening in the first place.18

Scientists are studying many parts of Alzheimer’s and similar issues. They look at medicines, other treatments, and tools to diagnose early. They also check out ways to help with emotional changes and tools to support those who care for people with dementia. Plus, they’re looking at what we all know about these diseases and how we can help.18 They need help from people of all kinds. Almost anyone can join a study. But, often, they need volunteers with them as a support person.18 Some studies also ask if you’d be interested in donating your brain after you pass away. This helps more research be done.18

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19 There’s a big need for more people in Alzheimer’s clinical trials. The shortage is making research progress slower.19 Getting and keeping people in trials is hard. It’s one of the main challenges, besides having enough money, in making new treatments.19

19 The Us Against Alzheimer’s A-List is for people at risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. They do surveys on a few important topics. This includes what patients prefer, their relationships, ways to help caregivers, and new technologies.19 The National Alzheimer’s Association gives advice on donating your brain and lists helpful resources.19 The Brain Donor Project lets you say you want to donate your brain.19 The NIH NeuroBioBank gives out brain samples to thousands of scientists every year. These are used to study many brain-related problems.19 The Brain Donation initiative tells you everything you need to know about donating your brain and how to sign up. It’s a really good thing to do for science.19 The DIAN-TU trial is looking at a type of Alzheimer’s that runs in families. It needs people over 18 whose family has had Alzheimer’s before age 60.19 The Alzheimer’s Prevention Trials (APT) Webstudy makes it easier to get into trials and do some tests online. This is for people 50 and older.19 The Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry (APR) tells people over 50 when there’s a new study they can join. It also shares the latest news on Alzheimer’s research.19

Living with Dementia: Coping Strategies and Support Resources

Living with dementia is tough, both for the person affected and their family.20 It’s common for those with dementia to feel a loss of self-worth because of memory and thinking troubles.20 As dementia gets worse, people might start acting out, feeling agitated, being suspicious, or asking the same thing over and over again.20 If a person shows behavioral changes like restlessness or aggression, it can be hard for them and those taking care of them.

Creating a Dementia-Friendly Environment

But there are ways to make it better. Changing the home a bit can make it safer, help keep independence, and increase comfort.20 Being around friends and family can really help people with dementia feel less alone and isolated, making life better.20 Most people with dementia have a hard time with daily activities like hobbies, roles, and tasks.

Support Groups and Community Resources

Joining support groups can connect you with others who understand and offer tips.21 In the U.S., millions care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.21 Often, caring for someone with dementia is a joint effort.21 Being part of a support group can ease the difficulties.21 Meditation might help caregivers lower stress, blood pressure, and improve sleep quality.

There are also many places with services for those affected and their families.21 These include programs for caregivers, break services, and activities for those with dementia.21 Look up the Administration for Community Living’s Eldercare Locator for help finding local services.21 The VA has special programs and resources for those caring for veterans, like support helplines and activities to look after oneself.

FAQ

What is dementia?

Dementia is like a big word for many brain conditions that get worse over time. It includes issues with memory, thinking, and reasoning. These problems make daily life hard.

What are the different types of dementia?

The main types are Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and mixed dementia.

What causes dementia?

Brain cell damage is the root cause. This can be from Alzheimer’s, stroke, and more. Age, genetics, and lifestyle all play a part.

What are the early signs of dementia?

Early signs are memory loss, trouble with language and problem-solving, mood swings, and finding daily tasks hard.

How is Alzheimer’s disease different from other types of dementia?

It’s the most common type, affecting memory and cognitive skills. It usually gets worse over time.

How is vascular dementia different from other types of dementia?

It’s the second most common type. It comes from poor blood flow to the brain, often after a stroke.

What are the key characteristics of Lewy body dementia?

It has Lewy bodies in the brain and affects thinking and memory. It can also cause hallucinations and movement issues.

How is frontotemporal dementia different from other types of dementia?

It changes the frontal and temporal lobes, affecting behavior and language. Symptoms can include personality shifts and social issues.

What is mixed dementia?

It’s when someone has more than one type of dementia. It shows different symptoms and can be harder to treat.

How is dementia diagnosed?

Doctors use tests to evaluate memory and thinking. They also do brain scans and analyze biomarkers. This finds the type of dementia and helps plan treatment.

What are the treatment options for dementia?

Though there’s no cure, treatments can help. Options include medicines, therapies, and lifestyle changes. Caregivers are also vital for support.

Can dementia be prevented?

Some lifestyles, like eating healthy and staying active, may lower the risk. Also, managing health conditions well can help.

What resources are available for those living with dementia and their caregivers?

There are many support options. These include dementia-friendly settings, support groups, and help from community programs.

Source Links

  1. https://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/alzheimers-dementia
  2. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/alzheimers-and-dementia/what-dementia-symptoms-types-and-diagnosis
  3. https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-alzheimers
  4. https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia/types-of-dementia/vascular-dementia
  5. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/vascular-dementia/symptoms-causes/syc-20378793
  6. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/disorders/lewy-body-dementia
  7. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lewy-body-dementia/symptoms-causes/syc-20352025
  8. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/lewy-body-dementia/what-lewy-body-dementia-causes-symptoms-and-treatments
  9. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/frontotemporal-dementia/symptoms-causes/syc-20354737
  10. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/frontotemporal-disorders/what-are-frontotemporal-disorders-causes-symptoms-and-treatment
  11. https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/blog/what-is-mixed-dementia
  12. https://alzheimer.ca/en/about-dementia/other-types-dementia/mixed-dementia
  13. https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia/types-of-dementia/mixed-dementia
  14. https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia
  15. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dementia/symptoms-causes/syc-20352013
  16. https://www.alzheimers.gov/life-with-dementia/can-i-prevent-dementia
  17. https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/managing-the-risk-of-dementia/reduce-your-risk-of-dementia
  18. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/clinical-trials-and-studies/participating-alzheimers-disease-and-related-dementias-research
  19. https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/conditions/dementia/clinical_trials.htm
  20. https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/help-dementia-care/understanding-supporting-person-dementia
  21. https://www.alzheimers.gov/life-with-dementia/tips-caregivers