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Understanding Different Types of Dementia

Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of neurological conditions affecting the brain that get worse over time.

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Transcript

Understanding different types of dementia

As we age, it’s normal to lose some neurons in the brain. People living with dementia, however, experience far greater loss. Many neurons stop working, lose connections with other brain cells, and eventually die. At first, symptoms can be mild, but they get worse over time.

Read on to learn more about four different types of dementia.

[Note: Below is a chart of four columns and five rows that describes what’s happening in the brain, the symptoms, the typical age of diagnosis, diagnosis, and treatment of four types of dementia.]

Types of dementia

Alzheimer’s Disease, Frontotemporal Dementia, Lewy Body Dementia, and Vascular Dementia

What is happening in the brain?

Alzheimer’s disease: Abnormal deposits of proteins form amyloid plaques and tau tangles throughout the brain.

Frontotemporal dementia: Abnormal amounts or forms of tau and TDP-43 proteins accumulate inside neurons in the frontal and temporal lobes.

Lewy body dementia: Abnormal deposits of the alpha-synuclein protein, called “Lewy bodies,” affect the brain’s chemical messengers.

Vascular dementia: Conditions, such as blood clots, disrupt blood flow in the brain.

Note that these changes are just one piece of a complex puzzle that scientists are studying to understand the underlying causes of these forms of dementia and others.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease

Mild

  • Wandering and getting lost
  • Repeating questions

Moderate

  • Problems recognizing friends and family
  • Impulsive behavior

Severe

  • Cannot communicate

Symptoms of frontotemporal dementia

Frontal Lobe: Behavioral Symptoms

  • Difficulty resisting the impulse to use or touch objects
  • Compulsive eating

Temporal Lobe: Language and Emotional Disorders

  • Unable to understand the meaning of words or speak properly
  • Difficulty understanding facial expression and personal relationships

Symptoms of Lewy body dementia

Cognitive Decline

  • Inability to concentrate, pay attention, or stay alert
  • Disorganized or illogical ideas

Movement Problems

  • Muscle rigidity
  • Loss of coordination
  • Reduced facial expression

Sleep Disorders

  • Insomnia
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness

Visual Hallucinations

Symptoms of vascular dementia

  • Forgetting current or past events
  • Misplacing items
  • Trouble following instructions or learning new information
  • Hallucination or delusions
  • Poor judgment

Typical age of diagnosis for Alzheimer’s disease: Mid-60s and above, with some cases in mid-30s to 60s

Typical age of diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia: Between 45 and 64

Typical age of diagnosis of Lewy body dementia: 50 or older

Typical age of diagnosis of vascular dementia: Over 65

Diagnosis for these four types of dementia

Symptoms can be similar among different types of dementia, and some people have more than one form of dementia, which can make an accurate diagnosis difficult. Symptoms can also vary from person to person. Doctors may ask for a medical history, complete a physical exam, and order neurological and laboratory tests to help diagnose dementia.

Treatment for these four types of dementia

There is currently no cure for these types of dementia, but some treatments are available. Speak with your doctor to find out what might work best for you.

Living with dementia can be challenging, but there are ways to manage it. Learn more about the types of dementia and other conditions that can cause dementia.