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What Are The Most Common Types of Dementia?

There was once a time where confusion and forgetfulness were just thought to be a natural part of the aging process. In reality, however, most adults should remain able and alert as they enter into their golden years. If you or a loved one have recently been experiencing symptoms associated with memory loss, it may be easy to quickly jump to the conclusion that you have some type of dementia.

With so much conflicting information available online and in the media, it can be easy to have a few misconceptions about dementia. As your trusted Concord memory care team, we are dedicated to providing families with the highest quality of care that is tailored to fit your specific needs.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a general term used to describe the loss of memory and other mental abilities. Caused by physical changes in the brain, symptoms associated with dementia are often serious enough that they will interfere with day-to-day life.

What Are the Different Types of Dementia?

Alzheimer’s Disease

This is the most common type of dementia, accounting for about 60 to 80 percent of cases. Alzheimer’s disease is considered to be a slowly progressing brain disease that often begins long before any symptoms begin. In the brain, many different changes occur resulting in nerve cell damage and even nerve cell death in the brain. Some of the common symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s include:

  • Difficulty remembering names and events
  • Difficulty remembering recent conversations
  • Depression and apathy
  • Impaired communication
  • Poor judgment and behavioral changes
  • Disorientation and confusion
  • Difficulty swallowing, speaking and walking

While there are many therapies available to temporarily increase functioning, and raise the spirits of those with Alzheimer’s, there is no treatment that has been proven to cure, delay or stop the progression of the disease.

Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia was previously referred to as post-stroke or multi-infarct dementia and is less common than Alzheimer’s, resulting in about 10 percent of cases. With new brain imaging technology, doctors are now better able to identify changes in the blood vessels that are typically implicated in vascular dementia. Most symptoms occur as a result of blood vessel damage or blockage, which can lead to stroke or bleeding in the brain. Some of the most common symptoms associated with vascular dementia include:

  • Impaired judgment and difficulty making decisions
  • Difficulty making future plans
  • The inability to organize daily activities
  • Loss of motivation

Like Alzheimer’s vascular dementia cannot be cured but there are treatments available that may help to prevent further brain injury.

Lewy Body Dementia

Lewy body dementia or cortical Lewy body disease is the 3rd most common type of dementia and is caused by abnormal clumps of protein in the brain. When this protein develops in the cortex of the brain, it can impair nerve cells and functioning, resulting in dementia. Some common symptoms of Lewy body dementia include:

  • Memory loss
  • Sleeping problems
  • Frequent swings in alertness levels
  • Hallucinations
  • Gait imbalance, slowness and other Parkinson-type movements

There are no known treatments available to cure Lewy body dementia. However, similar to Alzheimer’s there are many treatments that are designed to alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life.

Frontotemporal Dementia

While frontotemporal dementia is pretty rare, it is the 4th most common type of dementia. Often characterized by sudden behavioral and emotional changes, this type of dementia differs from others that typically show signs of cognitive impairment first. Frontotemporal dementia is the result of damage or shrinking or the frontal and/or temporal lobes of the brain. Common symptoms may include:

  • Decreased inhibition and empathy (often resulting in inappropriate behavior)
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Apathy and loss of motivation
  • Compulsive or repetitive behaviors

There is no cure for frontotemporal dementia but there are certain medicines available that can work to treat some of the symptoms associated with the disease.

Parkinson’s Disease

While Parkinson’s is not necessarily a type of dementia, as the disease progresses it will often result in a progressive form of dementia that is similar to Alzheimer’s disease or Lewy body dementia. Changes in the brain result in alpha-synuclein clumps that form deep in the brain, causing degeneration of the nerve cells that produce dopamine. Some common symptoms of Parkinson’s-related dementia include:

  • Problems with movement or slowness
  • Tremors and changes in gait
  • Memory loss
  • Hallucinations
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Speech problems

While there is no cure for Parkinson’s, there are medications available on the market that are designed to treat many of the symptoms related to the disease.

Memory Care at Havenwood Heritage Heights

When a loved one is diagnosed with dementia, their health and well-being greatly depends on the care of family, friends and trusted medical professionals. At Havenwood Heritage Heights, our Concord memory care team understands the need for compassionate care at every stage of dementia. Interested in learning more about the services provided at our continuing care retirement community in Concord? Contact us online today for more information.