Do you have a family member struggling with dementia? Did you know that over 13.9% of senior Americans have some form of dementia? Dementia is more than a failing memory.
Dementia can impact your mental and physical abilities in different ways and speeds. Therefore, your treatment options will also vary a ton. Understanding the different types of dementia will allow you to identify symptoms early on and get the right treatment.
For a complete guide on the different types of dementia, read on.
What Is Dementia?
When people think of dementia, the first thing that pops into their heads is memory problems. While it’s true that they may forget what day it is or where they put their keys, dementia is much worse. They can also forget details from the past and even who they or those around them are.
It’s worth noting that dementia is only a blanket term for a host of illnesses. Many types of dementia on this list share some or all of the following symptoms. These are issues with memory, the use of language, and decision-making.
Many other symptoms can occur beyond these, but these are the ones to watch out for. First, it’s worth going into the ten types of dementia.
As many as 80% of all dementia sufferers have Alzheimer’s. The earliest symptom is a failing memory, but it isn’t the only one. Alzheimer’s disease is also known to occur alongside depression.
Keep in mind that Alzheimer’s doesn’t cause depression or vice-versa. They are only correlated with each other in many cases. As such, those suffering from depression and Alzheimer’s at the same time need to treat both.
Alzheimer’s occurs due to the death of brain cells. It is a progressive disease that can start mild and worsen over time. Many with Alzheimer’s will experience sudden moments of confusion or a dysregulated mood.
Clear communication and speech can be impacted, as well as your ability to walk or move as well as usual. Around 95% of those with Alzheimer’s are over the age of 60. Early-onset Alzheimer’s can affect those in their 40s and 50s, but this is pretty rare.
Parkinson’s is a separate condition with strong ties to dementia. This is because many who have Parkinson’s will also develop dementia at some point. When someone with Parkinson’s develops dementia, there are a few early signs to look out for.
A person with Parkinson’s disease dementia will have difficulty comprehending what they see. Visual cues like signs or text can confuse them. They may also struggle to remember how to do daily chores.
Often, the ability to reason and use logic becomes impaired. Those with the disease can suffer from depression, irritability, and paranoia. Some can even suffer from hallucinations.
These can increase as the disease progresses. Many who develop advanced Parkinson’s with dementia will need proper homecare.
3. Lewy Body Dementia
Lewy body dementia is tricky, as it can mimic Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. The symptoms of Lewy body dementia can often include trembling hands and difficulty walking. Unlike some other types of dementia, we have a pretty good idea of what causes this type of dementia.
Lewy bodies are a particular type of protein. When these get deposited into your nerve cells, it can interrupt your brain’s ability to send and receive signals. We’re unsure as to why exactly these proteins get deposited there.
That said, we know that the disruption of these signals causes dementia. Memory issues and confusion are often early symptoms. Like with Parkinson’s, hallucinations are also possible.
The inability to regulate your sleep is also common. Some develop insomnia at night, while others fall asleep at random parts of the day. Sometimes you can go from one to the other will little warning.
One must also look out for a sense of physical weakness and poor balance. Because Lewy body dementia is easy to mistake for Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, it’s important to check with a specialist.
4. Vascular Dementia
Vascular dementia is a pretty common form of dementia. It ranks right behind Alzheimer’s in this regard. As the name suggests, vascular dementia has to do with your blood flow.
When your brain can’t get enough blood, you can develop vascular dementia. Anything that interrupts the flow of blood to that area is a culprit. The most common cause is a stroke, but there are others.
One of these is atherosclerotic disease. This is when excess plaque builds up on the walls of your arteries. This can restrict your blood flow to vital areas, like your brain.
It can be difficult to gauge the onset of vascular dementia. Symptoms can appear rapidly or take a while to develop. Confusion and dizziness are early signs to watch for.
Difficulty focusing for an extended period develops later. Hallucinations aren’t that common, but they do occur, so it’s important to be careful. Blurry vision can accompany dizziness, which is also something to watch for.
5. Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is so rare that most people have never heard of it. The downside is that on top of being one of the rarest types of dementia, it’s also one of the most rapid forms of dementia.
Many of the common symptoms will be present with CJD. These include depression, agitation and mood dysfunction, confusion, and memory loss. Twitching and body stiffness is also common.
Full-on shaking like in Parkinson’s is rarer. The scariest thing about CJD is that it can be lethal. It isn’t uncommon for those with CJD to die within a year of their initial diagnosis.
This speed of symptoms and brain deterioration sets it apart from most other types.
6. Frontotemporal Dementia
Frontotemporal dementia is actually a bit of a catch-all. It refers to multiple subtypes of dementia. As the name suggests, these are all types of dementia that affect the front and sides of your brain.
The side or temporal parts of your brain are actually where your language ability comes from. Your sense of behavior and how you act are also found there. Unlike some of the other dementia types on this list, this one can hit you young.
It isn’t uncommon for frontotemporal dementia to affect people in their 40s. We aren’t sure what exactly causes it, but we know there’s a strong genetic component. Frontotemporal dementia tends to be hereditary, and suffers have specific gene mutations.
This bodes well for future research, but we’re still a ways off. Frontotemporal dementia also sometimes goes by the name Pick’s disease.
Frontotemporal dementia impacts your ability to regulate your behavior. Your frontal lobe affects your ability to reason and make decisions and multitask. Specific symptoms of frontotemporal dementia include a loss of motivation and OCD.
Another common symptom is having difficulty remembering and comprehending words. This can also include struggling to string coherent sentences together.
7. Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome
Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome is a very specific type of brain disease. It’s made of two parts: Wernicke’s disease and Korsakoff Syndrome. The reason for the hyphenation in the name is the latter is almost always triggered by the former.
Wernicke’s disease is the first one and is actually caused by a vitamin B-1 deficiency. This causes bleeding in the lower parts of your brain. It’s known alternatively as Wernicke’s encephalopathy.
In essence, Wernicke’s disease results from physical damage to your brain. Symptoms can include difficulty seeing, including blurry or even double vision. Difficulty moving is common, as is a hit to your physical coordination.
Most of Wernicke’s disease symptoms will be physical. The Korsakoff syndrome part is where the symptoms more typical of dementia occur. In most cases, the physical symptoms of Wernicke’s will abate.
If its first part stays untreated, Korsakoff syndrome often follows. The symptoms of this second part are difficulty processing information. In particular, those with Korsakoff syndrome find it hard to remember new things or skills they learn.
This is because Korsakoff syndrome is often characterized by memory disorder. Often sufferers can remember things from the distant past but not recent events. Technically speaking, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome isn’t a type of dementia.
However, symptoms are similar enough to get lumped in with other types. For example, malnutrition and infections can cause the onset of Wernicke’s disease. That said, alcoholism is the leading cause of the B1 deficiency necessary for the disease.
8. Huntington’s Disease
Out of all the types of dementia, Huntington’s disease is one of the hardest to deal with. It’s a genetic disorder that causes dementia and strikes in 1 of 2 types.
Juvenile Huntington’s is very rare, with symptoms showing up in early adolescence. The adult version is more common but still pretty rare. Adult-onset Huntington’s begins as early as your 30s, and there is no known cure.
Like other forms of dementia, Huntington’s is progressive. Symptoms will include problems with memory as well as impaired movement. Shaking and difficulty controlling muscles or walking are typical. Those with the disease display other physical symptoms like the inability to swallow.
Huntington’s causes the premature breakdown of your brain’s nerve cells. In turn, this leads to brain cell death. The hardest thing for those with the disease to endure is the slow decay of their mental faculties.
Because the disease begins in your 30s, it can feel like your future is being robbed right when it should begin. It isn’t uncommon for those with Huntington’s to die within 15-20 years of the first symptoms. Speech and the ability to speak clearly go quite early.
Those with Huntington’s also have a hard time remembering new information. Difficulty concentrating on things for an extended period of time is another symptom. The inability to display impulse control is also common.
9. Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus
The cause of normal pressure hydrocephalus is a build-up of excess fluid in the brain. In particular, this fluid builds up in the brain’s ventricles. It’s most usually known as cerebrospinal fluid.
This fluid serves an important purpose: it cushions the brain and spinal cord. The issue is those ventricles are set up to take only so much fluid. Excessive cerebrospinal fluid will push on the brain.
The resulting pressure can create dementia-like symptoms. Common known causes include brain injury, bleeding, infections, and tumors.
It is possible for the build-up of fluid to have no easy-to-diagnose cause. Symptoms will include physical ones, such as issues with balance bladder control. Depression, memory failures, and dysfunctional moods are the mental symptoms.
It is worth reiterating that NPH is a form of brain damage that can get halted and reversed. This is especially true if caught early enough, so seeking medical attention is vital. Often, surgery will do the trick.
10. Mixed Dementia
When diagnosing this disease, many of the signs of dementia are actually shared. This can make it difficult to tell which one you have, so early medical advice is key. Mixed dementia is not a particular type of dementia, but the term when you have more than one.
One of the most common combos of dementia types is Alzheimer’s and Vascular dementia. As many as 45% of those with dementia could have multiple dementia. Because the combinations are often varied, it’s hard to know the symptoms.
Everything from memory to communication, focus, movement, and mood is fair game. Which symptoms you’ll experience first and what the severity is will also be a lottery. If you suspect you have mixed dementia, check the others on this list for common symptoms.
Seeing a doctor and getting a second opinion will go a long way.
The Different Types of Dementia
There are many different types of dementia, and this guide has covered ten major ones. They have a variety of symptoms and causes and available symptoms. For this reason, it’s worth being able to tell them apart.
No matter which type you think you might have, it’s worth asking a doctor and doing more research. For more information on health, check out our other blog posts.
Vivek is a published author of Meidilight and a cofounder of Zestful Outreach Agency. He is passionate about helping webmaster to rank their keywords through good-quality website backlinks. In his spare time, he loves to swim and cycle. You can find him on Twitter and Linkedin.