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Beyond Alzheimer’s: Understanding Different Types of Dementia

Beyond Alzheimer’s: Understanding Different Types of Dementia

But did you know there are many different forms of dementia? A few are reversible while most others, like Alzheimer’s, are not.

What Is Dementia?

Dementia is not actually a disease but a syndrome— a collection of symptoms that affect a person’s memory, thought process, communication skills and personality. There are a number of causes of dementia, including:

  • Brain damage, which can be caused by an accident
  • Stroke
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Alcoholism or drug abuse
  • An infection
  • Diseases like Parkinson’s or Huntington’s disease

Let’s explore some of the more common forms of dementia not caused by Alzheimer’s. These forms of dementia make up about 20 to 40 percent of all dementia cases.

Vascular Dementia This type of dementia may occur in someone who has had a major stroke or a series of mini-strokes. These “silent strokes” often go undetected until they lead to dementia.
 A stroke cuts off the supply of oxygen to the brain. When brain cells die from lack of oxygen, vascular dementia may occur.

Symptoms of vascular dementia depend on what area of the brain was affected by stroke. This may affect a person’s speech, judgment, or short-term memory. It may also cause delusions or hallucinations.

Parkinson’s Dementia This type of dementia occurs as a result of Parkinson’s disease, typically emerging 10 to 15 years after a Parkinson’s diagnosis.

Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB) Protein deposits that form in the brain may cause dementia. In the absence of a Parkinson’s diagnosis, this is classified as Lewy Body dementia. DLB shares symptoms with Parkinson’s dementia and Alzheimer’s. It’s often mistaken for these diseases. DLB symptoms include:

  • Problems with motor control and balance
  • Hallucinations and vision problems
  • Sleep disorders

In its later stages, DLB mimics late-stage Alzheimer’s with symptoms that may include confusion and agitation.

Frontotemporal dementia One of the less common forms of dementia, frontotemporal dementia affects individuals aged 45 to 65. It can be difficult to diagnose. It typically involves loss of inhibitions or judgment, changes in personality, and language disorders. Unlike other forms of dementia, frontotemporal dementia, usually does not cause memory problems.

Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus This type of dementia is caused by fluid build-up in the brain. It may be treated by draining the fluid.

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome – Caused by a severe lack of thiamine (B1), this type of dementia causes memory problems. It’s most commonly diagnosed in long-term alcoholics.

Early Treatment Is Key

In most cases of dementia, early treatment is the key to enjoying a longer and higher quality of life. Prescription drugs, as well as holistic treatments that may include exercise and a healthy diet, may delay the progression of many forms of dementia.

Find out more about the memory care programs for seniors with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia at Five Star Senior Living.

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