Dementia, by definition, refers to the symptoms that are presented when brain cells stop working as they should. It is not a disease in itself.
You may be surprised to learn that there are in fact over 100 different conditions that cause dementia symptoms, resulting in different types of dementia that cause varying changes within the brain.
If you or your loved one is presenting signs of dementia, it’s vital that you have access to as much information as possible about the challenges that lie ahead. Here, we take a look at the main types of dementia and what these conditions entail for the patient.
It is thought that Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of dementia in the UK; it is estimated to be responsible for up to 70% of all dementia cases.
Alzheimer’s is now considered a slowly progressive brain disease that actually begins well before the patient starts to show any symptoms.
Early indicators of Alzhemer’s include:
- Memory loss and difficulty remembering recent conversions and events
- Repeating questions after just a short period of time
- Misplacing items, or leaving them in strange places
- Feeling disorientated or getting lost
- Depression, irritability and apathy
As time progresses, the patient may begin to display the following symptoms:
- Impaired communication
- Poor judgement
- Difficulty speaking and swallowing
- Changes in behaviour and mood
You can read more about the key symptoms of Alzheimer’s, and how to care for those with the condition, here.
Otherwise known as vascular cognitive impairment, vascular dementia is the second most common cause of dementia. Depending on the changes that are happening in the brain, the condition can be identified as either:
Stroke-related dementia – meaning that it has developed after a stroke, or a series of smaller strokes; or
Subcortical vascular dementia – meaning that it is caused by changes to small blood vessels.
The main way to distinguish vascular dementia from Alzheimer’s is by assessing the initial symptoms closely. Those who are eventually diagnosed with vascular dementia may not suffer memory loss in the early stages of the condition, but will instead have an inability to plan or make decisions, combined in many cases with poor or impaired judgement.
Dementia with Lewy bodies (abbreviated to DLB)
The third most prevalent type of dementia, affecting around 100,000 people in the UK, is DLB.
As well as suffering cognitive problems and memory loss, those with DLB are more likely to experience sleep disturbance and visual hallucinations, along with symptoms that are often associated with Parkinson’s disease, such as slowness or a gait imbalance.
This is a general term for a number of different types of dementia, including:
- Behavioral variant FTD (bvFTD)
- Primary progressive aphasia
- Pick’s disease
- Corticobasal degeneration
- Progressive supranuclear palsy
Frontotemporal dementia is characterised by more pronounced changes in personality, changes in behaviour, and difficulty with recalling language.
Huntington’s specifically affects cells in the centre of the brain, which leads to problems with movement, mood and cognitive skills. It is a progressive brain disorder that can affect younger patients – often those aged between 30 and 50 – and it is also known to cause severe changes in mood, along with OCD-like symptoms. Its core symptom, however, is the inability to control the movement of the arms, leads, head, face and upper body.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, or CJD, is a type of fatal prion disease that leads to rapid degeneration. Variant CJD is familiar to many as “mad cow disease” and can be transmitted from cattle to humans.
This rare brain disorder greatly impairs memory and co-ordination, and can lead to significant behavioural changes. Other symptoms include agitation, depression, disorientation, impaired judgement and difficulty walking; many patients also experience stiffness, twitchy and involuntary movement in their muscles.
Normal pressure hydrocephalus
Caused by a build-up of fluid in the brain, this type of dementia leads to memory loss, difficulty walking, and problems with bladder control.
This type of dementia is normally caused by alcohol abuse and can be linked back to a vitamin B-1 deficiency in the patient. Those with the condition will struggle to remember recent events and have large gaps in their memory (but may still display reasonable thinking and social skills).
Dementia can develop as a result of Parkinson’s disease. The patient will have difficulty moving fluidly, and may also display similar symptoms to those present with DLB.
Mixed dementia occurs when the individual is presenting symptoms that relate to more than one type of dementia. The most common combination is Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, but many others are possible.
Caring for those with dementia
The type of dementia present in the service user will affect the level of ongoing support that they require. Our highly trained live in carers have an in-depth knowledge of the varying conditions that can lead to dementia symptoms, and they can tailor their care packages to suit the distinctive needs of the individual.
For more information on the many benefits of live in care services for those with dementia, please contact Independent People Homecare today on 0800 471 4741.