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The Five Types of Dementia

We often encounter changes to our bodies making us recognize the fact that we are aging, but one of the scariest experiences can be the feeling of the loss of our memory or thinking functions. For some, this can be a signal of the first signs of dementia.

Dementia is a term used to cover the many different types of changes that can affect parts of our brains’ neurological function. Symptoms of dementia can vary depending on the type that we are experiencing. Below is our list of some of the most common types of dementia

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common type of dementia that we can experience. A small percentage of Alzheimer’s disease can be attributed to the passing down of genes from parent to child, but not all reasons for this disease are known. Most diagnoses happen in our mid-60s or older, but we can be diagnosed with it as early as our mid-30s. 

Alzheimer’s Disease impacts the healthy cells in the brain which then disrupts the function of the thinking and memory parts of the brain. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s can depend on the severity of the disease but typically impact the daily parts of life from work to social experiences. 

Mild to moderate symptoms include:

  • Experiences of getting lost
  • Repeating oneself with questions
  • Confusion 
  • Organizing thoughts 

Severe symptoms include:

  • Difficulty recognizing family and friends
  • Impulsivity
  • Changes in personality

Learn More: 10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s 

 

Frontotemporal Dementia

Frontotemporal Dementia causes the breakdown of healthy brain cells in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, which in turn creates changes in personality, behavior, or language skills. Typically, memory is preserved in this form of dementia and is often diagnosed between the ages of 45 to 65. 

Frontotemporal Dementia is a group of diseases with varying symptoms. The 3 types are Behavioral Variant Frontotemporal Dementia (bvFTD), Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA) and disturbances of motor function.

Symptoms of these disease include:

  • Major changes in personality and behavior
  • Heightened emotions or lack of emotions
  • Loss of language skills – comprehension and formulation
  • Speaking can become labored
  • Changes in motor function
  • Muscle weakening or wasting 

Learn More: Association of FTD, Disease Overview 

 

Dementia with Lewy Bodies

One of the more common types of dementia is Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB). Lewy bodies are abnormal clumps of proteins found in the brain that affect the brain’s chemical messengers. Scientists have not yet discovered how Dementia with Lewy Bodies is caused, and most people diagnosed do not have a family history of the disease. 

Typical diagnosis age is 50 and over, but diagnosis can sometimes be confusing because of the presence of Lewy bodies in Alzheimer’s patients as well. Knowing the symptoms and differences of Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia with Lewy bodies will better help diagnosis. 

Symptoms of DLB include:

  • Trouble with attention and alertness
  • Disorganization
  • Lack of judgment  
  • Hallucinations
  • Visual perception
  • Misidentification of familiar people
  • Trouble with movement – tremors, rigidity

Learn More: Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA) 10 things you should know about Lewy Bodies Dementia 

 

Vascular Dementia

When the brain is impacted by the lack of blood from a stroke, mini-stroke, blood clot, or a vascular disease, it can lead to vascular dementia. The blocking of major blood vessels in the brain can cause gradual worsening of symptoms in our thinking and problem-solving abilities. This type of dementia is often unrecognized because it can occur with other types of dementia, often called mixed dementia. 

Symptoms of vascular dementia include:  

  • Confusion
  • Slowed thinking
  • Trouble with problem-solving
  • Loss of organization
  • Difficulty with speech – finding the right words
  • Memory loss may or may not occur depending on the area of the brain affected

Symptoms are also most recognizable after you suffer a stroke. 

Learn More: American Stroke Association – Stroke Symptoms

 

Mixed Dementia

Mixed dementia is the perfect term for this type of dementia because it often has a mixture of types of dementia impacting the functioning of our brains. Seeing symptoms of two or three different types of dementia happen when diagnosed with mixed dementia. For example, Dementia of Lewy bodies and Alzheimer’s disease might both be occurring because Lewy bodies are also very common in both types of dementia. Diagnosis of mixed dementia is not always possible because symptoms might look like another form of dementia.

 

Diagnosis of Dementia

Diagnosing the type of dementia can be hard as there is no one test a person can take to know whether or not we even have dementia. If diagnosed with dementia, we might need to see a specialist to have a more specific form diagnosed. For diagnosis, doctors will want to look at:

  • overall medical history
  • changes in personality and behavior 
  • total physical health 

Acknowledging the symptoms and changes that are happening to our brains can be hard to grasp. Knowing the different types and symptoms can better help us understand what we are going through and seek ways to help us manage our symptoms. Living with dementia can be hard but knowing there are resources and professionals out there can help people with it still live full and satisfying lives.

 

Additional Resources

10 Steps to Approach Memory Concerns in Others

Understanding Different Types of Dementia

Dementia: Symptoms and Causes

Healthy Hive

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