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The Different Types of Dementia and their Implications

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Written by Parth Sharma

In our day-to-day lives, we often forget to do our chores, have trouble remembering a phone number and find ourselves exhausted after a long day at work, unable to do a regular task. While we pay little to no heed to these telltale signs, in the long run, they can be identifying symptoms for the onset of Dementia in aging persons. 

The general misconception about memory loss pushes people away from a clinical diagnosis. However, it is vital to learn that people with Dementia have a higher chance of getting the proper treatment when diagnosed early. 

What is Dementia?

The popular understanding of Dementia and its related illnesses is that a person who has Dementia will have memory loss in daily life. Though the primary symptom includes a decline in brain function, Dementia is the term used for several neurological conditions. It affects brain areas such as language, memory, and decision-making. Dementia is a progressive illness that results in brain function deterioration over time; however, the time it takes is dependent on the individual itself. It can also be seen through the physical manifestations in the body. A person with Dementia may develop fatigue, weight loss, and even muscle weakness in the following stages of the illness.

Symptoms of Dementia 

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental

Disorders (DSM-5) has a broader diagnostic category for Major Neurocognitive Disorders, which now includes the previous diagnosis for Dementia. 

A clinician can identify the onset of Dementia through symptoms like: 

  • Short-term memory problems, 
  • Communication problems, 
  • The trouble with complex tasks and 
  • Stark personality changes, including agitation, paranoia, and mood swings. 

Risk Factors for Dementia

The risk factors for Dementia include:

  • Age
  • a previous history of Dementia in your family
  • Illnesses such as Diabetes, Down Syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis, Heart Disease, etc.
  • Prior history of Clinical Depression
  • Smoking, Substance Abuse
  • Brain injury
  • Infection in the brain (for example, meningitis and syphilis)

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Types of Dementia 

Many diseases can result in Dementia; however, the most common types of Dementia are described below:

Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer's is the most common cause of Dementia.

Within Alzheimer's disease, an abnormal protein surrounds the brain cells while another protein destroys its internal structure. With time, chemical associations between brain cells are lost, and the cells begin to die. Alzheimer's disease is thus marked by brain cell death. 

As the disease progresses, people experience confusion and mood changes. They also have trouble speaking and soon show problems with day-to-day memory. The other symptoms include finding the right words, making decisions, or observing things in three dimensions.

Vascular Dementia 

The second most common type of Dementia is Vascular Dementia. It's caused by a lack of blood flow to the brain. Suppose the oxygen supply to the brain is reduced because of narrowing or blockage of blood vessels. In that case, some brain cells become damaged or die. There are multiple types of vascular dementia as well.

Vascular Dementia happens as you age and can be related to stroke. The symptoms for the same can occur suddenly following one large stroke. Or they can develop over time because of a series of small strokes. Many people have difficulties with problem-solving and planning. They may also have short periods when they get perplexed; Confusion and disorientation are common early signs for Vascular Dementia. 

Dementia with Lewy bodies

Lewy body dementia is caused by protein deposits in nerve cells; it interrupts chemical messages in the brain and induces memory loss and disorientation. People with Lewy body Dementia also experience visual hallucinations and have trouble falling asleep at night or unexpectedly during the day. They also might faint or become disoriented. Dementia with Lewy bodies shares many symptoms with Parkinson's and Alzheimer’s diseases. 

Frontotemporal Dementia (including Pick's disease) 

In Frontotemporal Dementia, the front and side parts of the brain are damaged. The most notable signs of the same are changes in personality and behavior. Depending on which areas of the brain are damaged, the person with Frontotemporal Dementia may have challenges with speech fluency.

Parkinson's disease

Many people with advanced stages of Parkinson's disease will develop Dementia. A person with Parkinson's disease Dementia might have trouble interpreting visual information or remembering how to do simple tasks. They may even have hallucinations, leading them to be irritable. Many people tend to show depression or paranoia as the disease progresses. 

Other Types of Dementia include  

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. CJD advances very quickly. People experience agitation and depression, while confusion and loss of memory are also common.

Huntington's disease. It is a genetic condition that causes Dementia. The condition causes an untimely breakdown of the brain's nerve cells, leading to impaired movement and Dementia.

Mixed Dementia. It is common for someone to have both Alzheimer's disease and Vascular Dementia together.

Types of Dementia have a familiar pattern of memory loss which can be mistaken for Age-related problems and Mild Cognitive Impairment. However, there is a distinction between the three.

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Mild cognitive impairment.

MCI is not a type of Dementia, but research shows that people with mild cognitive impairment have an increased risk of developing Dementia. MCI can also be caused by other conditions such as anxiety, depression, physical illness, and medication side effects. Because of this, some people do not develop Dementia, and a fraction of people will even get better with the correct treatment.

Age-Related Memory Issues.

It is essential to note that becoming a bit more forgetful does not mean that you have Dementia. Many people notice that their thought process gets slower as they age. They might occasionally forget a friend's name, have difficulty remembering a prescription or two, and might take time to recall tasks. These can also be a sign of stress, depression, or certain physical illnesses that lead to memory loss in old age and not Dementia. 

While most symptoms of Dementia get mistaken for old age, an early diagnosis often helps investigate the root cause for the problem. With the correct medication, therapy, and treatment, people with Dementia can lead a healthy life. 

Getting the diagnosis of Dementia is a stressful process. When someone you love gets diagnosed with Dementia, you want to do everything possible to help them through their medication, therapy, and treatment. It is normal to feel overwhelmed during this process. It is suggested that you refer to a trained mental health professional to help your loved one and yourself understand and adjust to living with the condition moving forward. Following a local or online support group for people with Dementia can also be comforting in these situations.

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