Differentiating the Most Common Types of Dementia

As a syndrome that causes memory loss due to severe changes in the brain, Dementia is heartbreaking for everyone involved. If your loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, their thinking and behavior can also be affected.

Various treatments, such as medications and therapies, can help ease the symptoms of dementia. Depending on the type of dementia, your loved one’s treatment plan will vary. Let’s take a look to better understand the similarities and differences between the ten different types of dementia.

Alzheimer’s Disease

The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which occurs due to dead brain cells. Between 60 and 80 percent of all dementia cases are caused by Alzheimer’s disease. As Alzheimer’s progresses, people often experience mood changes and confusion.

Early signs of Alzheimer’s include:

  • Forgetting names
  • Failing to recall recent events
  • Depression or depressed mood

Creating a regular routine with your loved one is one of the best ways to alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer’s. 

Lewy Body Dementia

Lewy body dementia is caused by protein deposits in nerve cells. These protein deposits interrupt chemical messaging in the brain which results in memory loss and disorientation. People with Lewy body dementia also experience visual hallucinations. 

People suffering from this form of dementia often have trouble falling asleep at night, or they fall asleep unexpectedly during the day. Fainting and disorientation are also common, in addition to trembling hands and feelings of weakness.

Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia. It is caused by a lack of blood flow to the brain and is often related to a stroke or atherosclerotic disease, which hardens and narrows the arteries. 

Depending on what causes an individual’s vascular dementia, symptoms will either appear slowly or quite suddenly. Early signs are confusion and disorientation. As it develops, more symptoms appear, such as:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble completing tasks
  • Vision problems
  • Hallucinations

As symptoms worsen, it is a good idea to initiate the conversation about assisted living. An assisted living community will have the resources to help your loved one who struggles with vascular dementia. 

Frontotemporal Dementia

Frontotemporal dementia, also known as Pick’s disease, is a term used to describe many types of dementia that all have one characteristic in common: They affect the front and side areas of the brain. These areas of the brain control language and behavior.

People as young as 45 years old can be affected by frontotemporal dementia. Scientists have yet to pin down what causes it, but it has been found in certain genetic mutations. Frontotemporal dementia can occur from a mutation in one of these three genes:

  • GRN
  • MAPT
  • C9ORF72

People with this kind of dementia experience loss of motivation, compulsive behavior, and speech difficulties. 

Parkinson’s Disease

Advanced Parkinson’s disease often results in dementia. Early clues about this type of dementia are problems with judgment and reasoning. Someone with Parkinson’s disease dementia may have difficulty remembering how to do simple tasks, understand visual information, or have hallucinations.

Many people with this type of dementia also experience irritability. Depression, paranoia, difficulty speaking, and trembling hands increase as the disease progresses. 

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is technically not a form of dementia. However, it often gets classified as dementia because the symptoms are so similar. Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is the combination of one disease and one syndrome that appears one after the other. 

Wernicke’s disease is a brain disorder that results in brain bleeding due to a lack of vitamin B-1. Physical symptoms occur, such as double vision and loss of muscle coordination. Eventually, these symptoms decrease, and the symptoms of Korsakoff syndrome appear. 

Korsakoff syndrome is a memory disorder that occurs due to advanced Wernicke’s disease. A person’s ability to remember things and process information begins to decline. The causes of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome are commonly found in alcoholism, malnutrition, or chronic infections.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is one of the least common types of dementia, but it still presents itself in 1 in every 1 million people each year. Unfortunately, this type of dementia progresses very quickly, and life is often limited within a year of receiving a diagnosis.

The symptoms of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease are similar to most other forms of dementia. Most people experience:

  • Agitation
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Twitching muscles
  • Stiff muscles

Mixed Dementia

Mixed dementia is very common, and it refers to when a person presents more than one type of dementia. The most common combination in mixed dementia is vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Many people have mixed dementia, and they don’t know it.

Those with mixed dementia have difficulty speaking and walking as their condition worsens. Memory loss, disorientation, and mood changes are the first signs to appear.

Huntington’s Disease

Huntington’s disease is a genetic condition that results in dementia due to a premature breakdown of the brain’s nerve cells. Two forms exist:

  • Juvenile: This form is more rare. Symptoms occur during childhood or adolescence.
  • Adult-onset: Symptoms often appear from ages 30 to 50.

Beyond dementia, symptoms of Huntington’s disease include trouble swallowing, jerking movements, and difficulty walking. 

Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus

Normal pressure hydrocephalus is a condition where excess fluid builds up in a person’s brain ventricles. Brain ventricles are fluid-filled spaces that protect the brain and spinal cord, and they rely on the right amount of fluid to work correctly.

When too much fluid builds up, the brain experiences extra pressure. This increased pressure on the brain leads to symptoms of dementia. Normal pressure hydrocephalus can be caused by:

  • Infection
  • Brain tumors
  • Former brain surgeries
  • Bleeding
  • Injury

Surgery can sometimes help alleviate or even cure the symptoms. It is encouraged to seek treatment as soon as your loved one experiences symptoms so that doctors can prevent additional brain damage from occurring.

You Don’t Have to Navigate Dementia Alone

Dementia is overwhelming, frightening, and stressful to process. It is incredibly difficult to watch someone you love struggle with memory loss and other basic functions. No matter what type of dementia your loved one has, you don’t have to navigate it alone.

The empathetic staff at New Perspective knows just what it’s like to help a loved one struggling with dementia. If you’re interested in finding a safe, welcoming assisted living community for your loved one with dementia, reach out to us today. We will be here to guide you and your loved one every step of the way.