What is dementia?
Dementia is not a specific disease, but rather a term that is used to describe symptoms of memory loss — an “umbrella term” for the category of memory loss neurological disorders. There are many, but here are the 5 most common types of dementia:
The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s Disease. With Alzheimer’s there is usually a gradual decline in abilities that can span seven to ten years. However, the Alzheimer’s Association believes that you probably have the disease up to 20 years prior to being diagnosed.
The second most common form of Dementia is Vascular Dementia. This is caused from brain damage from cardiovascular problems such as a stroke or heart attack. With Vascular Dementia, as the disease progresses you will usually see sudden changes in their abilities.
The third most common type of Dementia is Lewy Body Dementia. In this form of dementia the cells die in the brain’s outer layer, and in parts of the mid-brain. The remaining nerve cells contain abnormal structures called Lewy Bodies. They usually contain a protein that has been linked to Parkinson’s Disease.
The fourth most common is Parkinson’s Disease. Not all people with Parkinson Disease will develop dementia, but if they do it is a Lewy Body dementia.
The fifth most common is Frontotemporal Dementia. This is caused by the degeneration of nerve cells in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. It does not include the formation of plaque found in Alzheimer’s Disease. This form of Dementia generally starts between the ages of 40-65, and in most cases there is a family history suggesting a strong genetic factor in the disease.
What are the causes of dementia?
Untreatable causes of dementia include:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Multi-infarct dementia (Vascular)
- Dementias associated with Parkinson’s disease and similar disorders
- AIDS dementia complex
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), a quickly progressing and fatal disease that is characterized by dementia and myoclonus—muscle twitching and spasm
- Dementia with Lewy Bodies
- Picks disease
Treatable causes of dementia include:
- Chronic drug abuse
- Tumors that can be removed
- Subdural hematoma, an accumulation of blood beneath the outer covering of the brain that results from a broken blood vessel, usually the result of a head injury
- Metabolic disorders, such as vitamin B-12 deficiency
- Hypothyroidism, a condition that results from low levels of thyroid secretion
- Hypoglycemia, a condition that results from low blood sugar
Read about the warning signs of dementia, watch some great videos and read more on our Resources page.
My loved one is starting to become forgetful. Could they have dementia?
Normal Forgetfulness,Mild Cognitive Impairment,Dementia
Sometimes misplaces keys\, eyeglasses\, or other items\, but can retrace steps to find them,Frequently misplaces items,Puts items in inappropriate places. Forgets what an item is used for
Momentarily forgets and acquaintance’s name\, but will eventually recall their name,Frequently forgets people’s names and or is slow to recall their names,May not remember or recognize a person
Occasionally forget to run errands,Begins to forget appointments and important events or occasions,Loses sense of time. No longer knows the date\, year\, or season
Occasionally has to search for a word to use in a sentence,Has difficulty using the right words,Begins to lose language skills. May withdraw from social situations
May forget an event from the past,May not be able to retain new information. Forgets recent events,Short terms memory is seriously impaired. Has lost the ability to retain any new information or learn anything new
When driving may forget where to turn\, but quickly orients self,May become lost more often. May have difficulty understanding and following a map or directions,Is easily disoriented or lost in familiar places\, such as in their own home
Jokes about memory loss as being a senior moment,Worries about memory loss. Family and friends notice the lapses,Has little or no awareness of cognitive problems