Dementia types

Do you have a loved one who has been affected by dementia? The first question you may ask is, “Is it treatable?” Experts would love to say yes, and in fact, in some types of dementia, this is very well the case. Unfortunately, in others, this is not true. Dementia is just a general term for a category of conditions that are marked by cognitive decline affecting social and intellectual abilities to the point that it imposes on daily functioning; in most cases, it is a progressive disease, meaning it gets worse with time, but it is possible to catch it early and start treatment that can reverse the symptoms of dementia and the condition itself. Dementia has different causes, and the cause will determine whether or not it can be treated. This article will discuss the various types of dementia, and key points about each of them.

Common Symptoms

The symptoms of dementia are quite common among all types. They include memory loss, difficulty communicating, inability to learn or remember new information, difficulty with planning and organizing, difficulty with coordination and motor function, personality changes, inability to reason, inappropriate behavior, paranoia, agitation, and hallucinations.

Progressive Dementia
Some common types of dementia are called progressive because they get worse with time and don’t have a cure.

Alzheimer’s Disease
This is a type of dementia called progressive dementia, and also the most common type. The exact cause isn’t known, but its onset is due to the destruction of brain cells; in fact, there are two types of brain cells that are affected in those with Alzheimer’s. One is the plaque (clumps of a typically harmless protein) and the other is tangles (fibrous tangles made up of abnormal protein). This disease can progress over the course of a decade, and gradually diminish cognitive abilities; memory, movement, language, judgment, behavior, and abstract thinking are all affected. Eventually, it becomes extremely difficult for the individual to function. Symptoms usually begin to appear after age 60, but a gene defect can cause an earlier onset.

Lewy Body Dementia

This is another form of progressive dementia caused by abnormal clumps of protein found in the brain (called Lewy bodies). Symptoms that are very characteristic of this disease are fluctuations in confusion and clear thinking, visual hallucinations, and tremors similar to those of Parkinson’s disease. Individuals affected by Lewy body dementia might have very “real life” dreams and “act” them out while sleeping (for example, thrashing or kicking).

Vascular Dementia
This, too, is a type of progressive dementia; it results from damage to the arteries and veins supplying the brain. It is common in those who have had a stroke or heart attack or with high blood pressure. The symptoms begin suddenly and may include memory loss, confusion, mood changes, but sometimes the symptoms only affect one side of the body.

Frontotemporal Dementia
This type of progressive dementia is caused by the deterioration of nerve cells in the temporal and frontal lobes of the brain; the temporal and frontal lobes contribute to personality, behavior, and language. The specific cause is not known. Once again, a variation of this dementia can be caused by abnormal protein buildup in the brain. Symptoms include socially inappropriate behavior, loss of mental flexibility, language problems, and trouble with thinking and concentration.

Reversible Dementia
Some types of dementia are reversible.

Metabolic problems/endocrine abnormalities
There are different types of problems that fall into this category that can be causes of dementia: thyroid problems, hypoglycemia (too little sugar in the bloodstream), too little or too much sodium or calcium, inability to absorb vitamin B12.

Nutritional deficiencies
Nutritional deficiencies are never good, and some can even lead to dementia. Deficiencies in vitamin B12, B1, or B6, water (dehydration), and chronic alcoholism.

Reactions to medications
Taking medications that interact with each other can cause dementia; also, the use of one medication may cause dementia in some people.

Infections/immune disorders
Dementia can be a side effect when the body works to fight off a serious infection, like a brain infection, syphilis, Lyme disease, and leukemia. Autoimmune diseases, in which the body attacks its own cells, can also cause dementia.

Hematomas/brain tumors

Subdural hematomas are caused by bleeding between the brain’s surface and outer covering; a brain tumor can also cause dementia.

Exposure to heavy metals, poisons, or pesticides can lead to dementia. Once treated, symptoms may go away.

This is a condition when the right amount of oxygen isn’t getting to the brain and other organs. There are different causes: heart attacks, severe asthma, carbon monoxide poisoning, strangulation, exposure to high altitudes, or an overdose of anesthesia.

Last updated on Dec 12th, 2010 and filed under Neurological Disorders. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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