One of the most common questions patients and their loved ones ask is: What are the different types of dementia?
Dementia causes problems with a person’s memory, thinking, and ability to reason properly. Dementia occurs when parts of the brain, which are in charge of how we learn and retain information, holding our memories and making decisions, as well as our ability to speak and understand language, are damaged or diseased.
It is common for people to think Alzheimer’s disease is separate from dementia, or that dementia is a disease in and of itself. When in fact, Alzheimer’s is a disease that causes those affected to suffer from dementia. Dementia causes memory loss, among other symptoms, but dementia is not a disease in and of itself. Various diseases can cause dementia, but a person wouldn’t have “dementia” alone. They’d had a disease that causes dementia to occur as a side-effect.
In this article, we will discuss the various types of dementia, and how they can be treated.
What is Dementia?
Another name for dementia is neurocognitive disorder, and as mentioned before, it is not a disease itself. Instead, it is a grouping of systems that are caused by other conditions.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in the U.S. Approximately 60% to 80% of people with dementia have Alzheimer’s. That said, there are as many as 50 other causes of dementia. Unfortunately, most of the diseases that cause symptoms of dementia are incurable, but they the symptoms can improve with the right treatments.
What Causes Dementia?
As mentioned above, dementia is a term that is used to describe severe changes in the brain, usually resulting in memory loss, changes in personality and mood swings. Dementia can cause a person to no longer be able to perform daily activities.
Dementia can affect three areas of the functioning brain:
- Decision making
With those areas of the brain in mind, most cases of dementia are caused by a non-curable disease. That said, there are a few circumstances where dementia can be reversed, due to its underlying cause. Below, we’ve listed the most common causes of dementia:
- Degenerative Neurological Diseases – Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and some of the types of sclerosis. All of these diseases get worse with time.
- Vascular Disorders – These are the types of diseases that affect one’s blood circulation to the brain.
- Traumatic brain injuries that can result from accidents, falls, concussions, etc.
- Infections that harm one’s central nervous system. These can include meningitis, HIV, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
- Long-time use of drugs or alcohol, especially excessively
- Certain types of hydrocephalus, which is a build-up of fluid in the brain
Types of Dementia
Dementia can be divided into two groups, based on which part of one’s brain is affected by it.
Cortical dementias occur when a problem with the cerebral cortex, the outer layer of the brain, is affected by certain diseases. This type of dementia affects one’s ability to remember or hold memories, as well as properly communicate. Generally speaking, people with cortical dementia usually have a severe loss of memory and are unable to remember words or understand language that they once knew and could speak and understand fluently. Alzheimer’s disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease are two forms of cortical dementia.
Subcortical dementias happen due to problems in parts of the brain beneath the cortex. People who suffer from the effects of subcortical dementia tend to show changes in their thinking, and ability to