News - 14th October 2020

A brief guide to the different types of dementia


Most of you will have heard of Alzheimer’s disease, but can you name some of the other forms of dementia?


Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia and accounts for around two thirds of cases, with typical early symptoms involving memory problems, and changes in behaviour.


However, dementia is not just about memory loss. It is a condition, an umbrella term used to describe a variety of symptoms caused by diseases of the brain.


These diseases and their accompanying symptoms can include personality and behavioural changes, speech problems, and even visual hallucinations. Find out more about some of the other dementias below:


Vascular dementia


Vascular dementia is the second most common cause of dementia, accounting for around 20 per cent of cases. It can occur when blood flow to the brain becomes reduced, such as after a stroke or changes to very small blood vessels in the brain.


Symptoms can be similar to Alzheimer’s, such as memory loss and disorientation. There can also be more specific symptoms and these will differ depending on the area of the brain affected. These include slower thinking, personality changes, movement problems and unsteadiness.


Dementia with Lewy bodies

For every 100 people with dementia, around 10-15 will have dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB).


DLB is caused by small round clumps of protein, called Lewy bodies, that build up inside nerve cells in the brain.


People living with DLB can show some changes in the brain that are typical of Alzheimer’s, which sometimes makes it hard to tell the difference between the two diseases. But there are also more specific symptoms that are associated with the disease.


People with DLB often experience changes in alertness and attention, and periods of confusion, that may be unpredictable and change from hour-to-hour or day-to-day.


As Lewy bodies are also responsible for the damage that causes movement problems in Parkinson’s disease, people with DLB can also experience Parkinson’s-type symptoms, such as slower movements, stiffness in the arms and legs, and shaking or trembling.


One of the most dramatic symptoms can be visual hallucinations, seeing things that are not there, such as people or animals. Sleep disturbances – vivid dreams, shouting out or moving while sleeping – can also be a symptom of DLB.


Frontotemporal dementia


Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a relatively rare form of dementia. It is thought to account for fewer than one in 20 of all dementia cases and commonly affects people between the ages of 45 and 64.


FTD is caused by the build-up of specific proteins which damage cells in areas of the brain called the frontal and temporal lobes. There are a number of different types of FTD, which can have different symptoms.


People living with behavioural variant FTD often have changes in personality and behaviour. They may change in how they express their feelings towards others or lack understanding of other people’s feelings. They can become withdrawn and lose interest in things, but can also develop unusual beliefs, interests and obsessions. They can also lose social awareness, such as making inappropriate jokes.


There are also forms of FTD, known as primary progressive aphasia (PPA), which affect speech and language. Depending on the type of PPA a person has, they may forget the meaning of words, make mistakes in how they say words and sentences, or pause while speaking as they try to find the right word.


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