When people think of dementia, we often think of Alzheimer’s Disease. However, there are many different types of dementia with their own unique symptoms and cause. Although Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, it is not the only one. Sometimes it can be difficult to differentiate symptoms, but it’s important to understand the underlying cause of each case of dementia because they affect our lives differently and require specialized treatment. In this article, we will examine various types of dementia symptoms and causes.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is a term used to describe symptoms related to a progressive brain disorder that affects memory, problem-solving, and communication. In other words, dementia describes a general decline in cognitive abilities related to a gradual death of brain cells. It affects your thinking, but it can also change your personality.
Symptoms can be confusing for both the person with dementia and the people around them, but trying to track and understand them is key to managing optimal wellness and functionality.
There are over 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer's Disease, but many of us are unaware of the finer details. Researchers haven’t been able to identify the root cause of Alzheimer’s, but risk factors include aging, poor diet and exercise habits, certain genes, and a family history of Alzheimer’s. Although it is not a risk factor, almost two thirds of Americans with Alzheimer's disease are women.
One of the most common signs of Alzheimer's is memory loss that hinders daily life. Although it can be normal to forget things as we age, in most cases we will be able to remember later and function normally on a daily basis. When you have Alzheimer's, you can forget recently learned information and may ask the same questions repeatedly. This can involve forgetting names, familiar places, appointments, bill payments, important events, and tasks that were once routine.
Other symptoms of Alzheimer's include: issues with planning, impaired problem-solving, difficulty concentrating, visual problems, losing track of time, forgetting where they are or how they got there, problems with vocabulary (mixing up words, making up new ones), difficulty communicating without losing or repeating themselves (in speech and writing), losing things and being unable to retrace steps, challenges with decision-making, avoiding social activities or hobbies that were usually enjoyed, and changes in mood or personality.
Vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia and is usually caused by a stroke (or a series of small mini-strokes that can go unnoticed). It can also be caused by a blood clot or blockage that reduces blood flow to the brain. This type of dementia is statistically more common in men than women.
Vascular dementia affects everyone differently, but it usually progresses one step at a time, with periods of stability eventually ending in another loss of cognitive ability. Aside from general signs of dementia related to loss in memory, language, or thought-processing, other symptoms of vascular dementia include: slurred speech, laughing or crying inappropriately, confusion, hallucinations or delusions, dizziness, balance problems, loss of bladder control, or tremors.
Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB)
Lewy Body Dementia is caused by an accumulation of protein deposits in the brain called Lewy bodies which impair functioning and lead to deterioration of brain cells. This disease is characterized by its onset: memory problems consistent with Alzheimer's that eventually lead to other motor and physical problems. However, people with Lewy Body Dementia generally experience less short-term memory loss and more difficulty with planning, organization, and visual perception.
Other symptoms include sleep problems (insomnia or daytime fatigue), fluctuations in awareness and concentration, spontaneous motor problems such as slowed movement, stiff muscles, tremors, dizziness or fainting, and recurrent hallucinations in which they see things that aren't there (shapes, colors, etc.), which can even include talking to deceased loved ones.
Mixed dementia is characterized by more than one type of dementia occurring at once. Symptoms will vary depending on the types of changes happening in the brain. This type of dementia is usually missed, with patients only being diagnosed with one disease while the other develops unnoticed.
The cause of Parkinson's disease is not quite definitive yet, but researchers believe it is related to the gradual loss of dopamine cells caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. People with Parkinson’s have much lower dopamine levels than the average person. The disease affects one's movement, speech, and writing. Stiffness in the body leads to weakened muscles and impaired movement.
Men are more likely to develop Parkinson's disease. Other early symptoms include: twitches and tremors, smaller handwriting (because of stiff hands), loss of smell, trouble sleeping, stiff limbs that make it hard to move parts of your body, constipation, speaking in a softer or lower voice, serious expressions or lack of facial expression, dizziness or fainting, and a hunched over, misshapen posture.
Huntington disease is a genetic brain disorder that causes cells to die in certain parts of the brain. Children of a parent with Huntington disease have a somewhat higher risk for developing the disease. Common symptoms include emotional instability, issues with concentration and thinking skills, uncontrollable movements, misshapen posture, slurred speech, weight loss, and eventually difficulty walking, talking, and swallowing.
Other less common types of dementia include:
Normal pressure hydrocephalus
Managing Dementia Symptoms
Different types of dementia require different types of treatment. Although there is no cure, there are many things you can do to manage dementia symptoms and hinder the disease’s progress or increase daily comfort and functionality. Having the assistance of a professional home caregiver is one way to ease the difficulties of functioning in day-to-day life with dementia. Home caregivers can also offset the responsibility required by family members when a senior loved one has dementia. Alegre Home Care provides top-notch, personalized assistance for seniors who have different types of dementia. Learn more by contacting us at one of our locations.