Dementia is a word used very broadly to describe any type of mental decline, or a decline in cognitive abilities. The most recognized type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which is a progressive disease, as are most types of dementia. However, there are certain types of dementia that, when properly diagnosed, can be treated and the dementia slowed, or reversed. While Alzheimer’s disease accounts for up to 80% of cases of dementia in those over 65, there are 10 other types of dementia, that have various underlying causes, that can also occur.
Vascular dementia is dementia that is the result of anything that causes a reduced flow of blood to the brain. Things such as a stroke, clogged and blocked arteries to the brain, diabetes and hypertension can all decrease blood flow to the brain and can result in vascular dementia. These underlying vascular causes can often be effectively treated and the dementia reversed.
Just as the name implies, mixed dementia is dementia that has more than one cause. Such is the case with someone who has dementia from a stroke, which is a vascular dementia, and who also has Alzheimer’s disease of Parkinson’s dementia. In this case, treating the vascular portion of the dementia may improve cognitive functioning to come degree, but since Alzheimer’s is incurable, the toll take by that disease will remain unchanged.
Parkinson’s dementia is a form of dementia that is progressive and incurable and is associated with Parkinson’s disease. Memory and judgment are impaired, as well as speech. There may also be muscle stiffness and tremors with Parkinson’s dementia. Not everyone who has Parkinson’s disease will go on to develop Parkinson’s dementia.
Dementia with Lewy Bodies
When an abnormal amount of proteins are deposited in the brain, dementia can occur. These protein deposits are referred to as Lewy Bodies and no one knows what causes them to build up in brain, but as the deposits continue to build up, the communication between nerve cells is disrupted and dementia occurs. There is no way to reverse this type of dementia.
Two of the lobes in the brain are the frontal lobe and the temporal lobes. When cells in these portions of the brain are damaged a change in personality may be seen, as well as behavioral changes. These types of changes usually precede memory loss and speech impairment. Pick’s disease is a rare disease that is the number one cause of frontotemporal dementia.
Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus
A build up of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain is problem behind normal pressure hydrocephalus. As the pressure from the fluid increases pressure in the brain, certain functions are changed or impaired. Most often seen are changes walking and balance, bladder control and speech and problems.
Creutzfeldt-Jacob Dementia is more commonly known as Mad Cow disease and is a result of certain viruses that disrupt proper brain function. This form of dementia is rare, and it is a progressive disease that cannot be cured once contracted. The symptoms seen in this form of dementia progress quickly and memory loss, speech impairment and confusion mark this type of dementia.
Huntington’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disease that has a very strong genetic component. The first signs are behavioral changes, personality changes, mood swings and poor judgment. Eventually slurred speech may result, as well as jerking movements, and difficulty walking.
If you watch House, M.D, you hear about Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome fairly often. Wernicke’s results from a vitamin B1 deficiency. Vitamin B1 is also know as thiamine, and this deficiency is usually seen in late stage alcoholics, though it can also be seen in people with severe malnutrition. Confusion, gaps in memory that cannot be recovered, and short term memory loss are all symptoms of Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome dementia.
Mild Cognitive Impairment
MCI can be caused by a variety of things, from illnesses, to medications and a lot of other issues that are usually treatable. A person with MCI will have some memory loss, and may occasionally experience speech and judgment problems, but what distinguishes MCI from other forms of dementia is that the person with MCI is almost always aware of the changes in their cognition. MCI does not impair a person’s ability to do day to day tasks, but the impairment is just enough to become frustrating to the sufferer, and may also result in depression and anxiety because of that frustration.
As can be seen, dementia is am umbrella term that covers a whole host of types of cognitive functioning problems. While Alzheimer’s disease may be the source of most cases of dementia, anyone who is experiencing a change in memory, personality, and behavior should see a physician as soon as possible to determine what is causing the symptoms, and to treat anything that can found. Because so many things can cause dementia symptoms, it may take a lot of sleuthing to get to the bottom of the problem, but a good doctor will take the time to find the source of any cognition related symptoms and help you begin to cope with your symptoms.
Dr Harvey Gilbert, M.D.
Diagnosing Dementia and 10 Types of Dementia