Types Of Dementia And Their Symptoms
Dementia isn't always easy for people to understand. It's not a specific disease; instead, it's a group of symptoms related to cognitive impairment. What's more, you or a loved one may have or be at risk for several types of dementia, each with its causes, symptoms, and treatments.
The types of dementia recognized by the medical community are variations of the general term dementia or a group of symptoms related to memory loss and other cognitive impairments. Most types of dementia happen to older adults but can also occur to adults as young as 30.
Dementia has a physiological cause and creates both physical and mental decline. Dementias fall between mild and severe, depending on their impact on daily living. Unless dementia can be reversed, it is a fatal condition. The following list includes only a few different types of dementia.
Dementia with Lewy bodies
Subcortical vascular dementia
Parkinson's disease dementia
Rapidly progressive dementia
What is vascular dementia? It's a type of dementia that can happen when the blood flow to the brain is impeded and can result from a stroke or even a series of small strokes that you aren't aware of when they occur. When it happens because of a single large stroke, it can be rapidly progressive dementia.
Anything that puts those precious blood-supplying vessels at risk can lead to vascular dementia. Some examples are high blood pressure, diabetes, and atrial fibrillation. While treating the cause of vascular dementia can prevent further damage to your brain, the damage that's already happened can't be reversed.
Multi-infarct dementia happens when you have multiple small strokes. Subcortical dementia occurs when the small blood vessels and nerve fibers in your brain's white matter are damaged.
If you have a stroke that causes dementia, you may become confused, disoriented, have trouble with speech, or experience vision loss immediately. If you have mini-strokes over a more extended period, your symptoms will gradually manifest. Early signs, in this case, include poor planning and judgment, difficulty finding the right words, trouble paying attention, uncontrollable laughing and crying, and difficulty functioning in social situations.
In multi-infarct dementia, if you have strokes only on one side of your brain, only the functions controlled by that side will be affected. If you have strokes on both sides, you might have widespread effects, causing an entire range of symptoms.
Subcortical vascular dementia symptoms may include short-term memory loss, organization and decision-making difficulties, inappropriate behaviors, and mood and attention problems. You may also do things more slowly as your psychomotor abilities diminish.
Frontotemporal Lobe Dementia
Frontotemporal has several different subtypes. It happens when the temporal and frontal lobes of the brain degenerate. Adults 45 years old and older can have this type of damage. It's the most common type for people 45 to 65 years old, making it one of the types of early-onset dementia.
The cause of frontotemporal dementia is damage to the regions of the brain that control behavior, emotion, language, and decision-making. The brain regions typically affected are the frontal, temporal, and insular regions.
Early symptoms of frontotemporal lobe dementia typically include behavioral changes, such as acting inappropriately or impulsively, being apathetic, being unable to show empathy, having repetitive or compulsive movements, changing your diet, and showing a lack of insight or problems with planning and judgment.
Another type of symptom includes those related to language dysfunction. These can consist of problems expressing thoughts and feelings without memory loss and reading and writing problems.
Finally, people with frontal lobe dementia may become gradually weaker and slower moving. Their muscles feel weak and may spasm often. Their eye movements, reflexes, and muscle stiffness may change as well.
Perhaps surprisingly, people with frontotemporal dementia may develop new creative skills.
There is no cure for frontotemporal dementia, but medications and lifestyle adjustments can minimize the symptoms.
Dementia With Lewy Bodies
In Lewy body dementia, abnormal deposits of alpha-synuclein proteins build up in regions of the brain responsible for the regulation of cognition, behavior, and movement.
As you age, changes in your brain can lead to Lewy body dementia. Other risk factors aren't well known but may include genetic and environmental factors.
Symptoms include problems with thinking, memory, sleep, behavior, and movement. Dementia with Lewy bodies may also present symptoms such as blood pressure, temperature regulation, and bladder and bowel control problems. If you have Lewy body dementia, you may also have hallucinations or act out your dreams.
Parkinson's Disease Dementia
Parkinson’s disease can lead to dementia in about 20% to 40% of the people who have the disease. Parkinson's disease dementia is related to the deterioration of brain cells due to aging. Although Parkinson's disease doesn't always result in cognitive problems, it interferes with daily function when cognitive decline is present.
Causes may include toxic substances in the environment, free radical damage, and genetic factors, and it’s more common in people aged 70 or older.
The symptoms of Parkinson's disease dementia include problems with decision-making ability, disorientation, inability to adapt to change or learn new information, trouble concentrating, memory loss, and difficulties using and understanding complex language.
Several types of dementia happen due to reversible causes. Vascular dementia is one, but there are also several others. It's important to recognize when these underlying causes are present to prevent dementia from happening or stop it as early as possible.
Causes of reversible dementias include:
Side effects of medications
Drug interactions between medications
Alcohol or drug abuse
Vitamin deficiencies (A, C, B-12, and folate)
If you have dementia caused by one of the conditions listed above, you'll have the symptoms of the original condition first, whatever they are. For example, you'll have dementia due to depression; you'll have symptoms of depression first. As dementia takes hold, your thinking and behavior are affected. The specific symptoms depend on the cause of dementia.
Other Types Of Dementia
There are too many different types of dementia to discuss in one sitting. Two of these are AIDS dementia and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, both of which have sparked interest lately.
People who have HIV and AIDS may develop AIDS-related dementia as the disease progresses. Other names for AIDS dementia are AIDS dementia complex (ADC), HIV-associated dementia, and HIV/AIDS encephalopathy. Symptoms include problems with memory, reasoning, concentration, judgment, and problem-solving. If you have AIDS dementia, you might also have speech problems, be clumsy, or have poor balance.
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a type of brain disorder that causes dementia symptoms. It's often found in professional football players, boxers, other athletes, the military, and others who suffer repeated blows to the head. This condition was called dementia pugilistica when it was discovered among boxers in the early 1900s. CTE is the preferred name for it now.
Symptoms include memory problems, impulsive or erratic behavior, balance problems, problems with judging, aggression, and depression. These symptoms come on slowly, but CTE can't yet be diagnosed with certainty until an autopsy is performed after death.
Mixed dementia is a combination of two or more types of changes in the brain that cause dementia. One common example is mixed dementia with signs of both Alzheimer's and vascular dementia. Alzheimer's and Lewy body dementia often happen to one person, too. Because there's so much overlap of symptoms, mixed dementia can be challenging to diagnose, and certain diagnosis usually occurs only after autopsy.
Help For You Or A Loved One While Dealing With Dementia
Coping with even the possibility that you or a loved one might have dementia now or in the future can be difficult. The idea that your brain may deteriorate to the point that it affects your daily functioning can be concerning and frightening.
One of the best things you can do to address your fear is to talk to a counselor about dementia. They can help you understand what dementia is and how it might affect you. They can also help you cope with the difficulty of getting a diagnosis and facing the impact of the disease if it happens.
If you’re considering treatment, online therapy has many benefits that may make it more convenient and accessible than in-person sessions. With online therapy, you’re matched with a qualified mental health counselor so you can start treatment right away, no matter where you live. You can attend sessions from the comfort of your home and reach out to your therapist any time, and they’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
Online therapy is effective, too. Research shows that online therapy participants saw “significant and clinically meaningful improvements in depression and anxiety scores relative to baseline” after only 12 weeks of treatment and at six months post-intervention. If you’re ready to get started, reach out to BetterHelp for more information.
There are multiple types of dementias, and their effects can be devastating. If you have just received a diagnosis or are caring for someone who has, online therapy can help you cope.