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Types of dementia and their causes

Dementia isn't a single disease. Dementia is a term used to describe the symptoms that occur when there's a decline in brain function.

We have a wealth of experience in caring for people with different types of dementia. The most common types of dementia, and their associated causes, are:

Alzheimer’s disease

In the UK Alzheimer’s disease is the most commons type of dementia. During the course of Alzheimer’s disease the chemistry and structure of the brain change, leading to the death of brain cells. Short-term memory loss is usually the first noticeable sign. Alzheimer’s can also affect concentration, decision-making and everyday living skills.

Alzheimer’s symptoms tend to develop gradually over time. These may include:

  • Difficulty remembering recent events while having a good memory for past events
  • Poor concentration
  • Issues recognising people or objects
  • Poor organisation skills
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Slow, muddled or repetitive speech
  • Reduced ability to perform everyday tasks such as cooking, paying bills and shopping
  • Problems with decision making

Vascular dementia

Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia. If the oxygen supply to the brain fails due to vascular disease, brain cells are likely to die. These symptoms can occur either suddenly, following a stroke, or over time through a series of small strokes.

The signs and symptoms of vascular dementia depend on which area of the brain has been affected. Language, reading, writing and communication can be affected in vascular dementia. Memory problems may not be an issue initially, if this area of the brain has not been damaged, although they may occur later on.

Dementia with Lewy bodies

Dementia with Lewy bodies affects movement and motor control. Tiny abnormal deposits develop inside nerve cells, leading to the degeneration of brain tissue. This form of dementia shares some characteristics with Parkinson’s disease, such as tremors. A person with dementia with Lewy bodies might also:

  • Be prone to falls
  • Have trouble swallowing
  • Shuffle when they walk
  • Experience disrupted sleep patterns due to intense dreams/nightmares
  • Have visual and auditory hallucinations due to the nerve cell damage

Frontotemporal dementia (including Pick’s disease)

This type of dementia usually affects younger people (45-65 years old). Damage is usually focused in the front part of the brain - the frontal lobes. At first, personality and behaviour changes are the most obvious signs - people with this types of dementia can lost their inhibitions and behave in what might be considered as an ‘inappropriate’ way .

Mixed dementia

It is possible to have two types of dementia - commonly Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. A person with mixed dementia would have a mixture of symptoms.

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