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Types of Dementia

There are many different types of dementia, each with their own characteristic symptoms. Understanding the specific diagnosis of a loved one can help you come to terms with it and to know what to expect. On this page, you can find information about some of the most well-known types of dementia.

  • Two women on a beach. One is standing the other sits in a wheelchair.

    Types of dementia

    There are many different types of dementia, each with their own characteristic symptoms.

    • Alzheimer's Disease

      • Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, affecting more than half of people diagnosed with dementia.

        Alzheimer's disease causes physical permanent damage to individual brain cells due to the build-up of proteins causing Plaques and Tangles. The number of damaged cells increases over time, which means that brain function, including memory, gradually deteriorates. As this happens, everyday tasks become more and more difficult.

        This decline may begin slowly and can progress over a number of years.

        Common symptoms of Alzheimer's disease are:

        • Mood changes
        • Memory issues
        • Impaired reasoning
        • Speech problems

        There's no known cure for Alzheimer's disease, but certain medications and therapies can be used to address some of the symptoms.

    • Vascular Dementia

      • Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia and affects around 180,000 people in the UK.

        Vascular dementia is caused when the blood supply to the brain is reduced, leading to the death of brain cells. This might happen suddenly after a stroke or more gradually after a series of mini-strokes, which can sometimes be so small that they go unnoticed. Blood supply can also be compromised by the thickening of the blood vessel walls in the brain.

        It's very rare that anyone under the age of 65 will develop this type of dementia.

        Common symptoms of vascular dementia are:

        • Memory problems
        • Speech problems
        • Inability to concentrate
        • Mood and personality changes
        • Difficulty with balance

        Progression of symptoms generally happens in stages, where symptoms may change overnight rather than gradually over an extended period of time.

    • Alcohol-Related Dementia

      • Alcohol-related dementia, which includes Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, particularly affects short-term memory.

        People who consume alcohol in excess are at risk of thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency, which can lead to impaired memory and other issues.

        Common symptoms of alcohol-related dementia are:

        • Memory loss
        • Difficulty with everyday tasks
        • Lack of problem-solving skills
        • Lack of motivation
        • Poor judgement

        It's possible to see an improvement in this condition if the patient stops drinking alcohol and starts eating a nutritious diet. However, it's important to be aware that alcohol-withdrawal can have several side effects, such as anxiety, hallucinations and confusion.

    • Frontotemporal Dementia

      • Frontotemporal dementia, also known as Pick's disease, affects the sides and front of the brain. This typically causes problems with speech and behaviour.

        People with this condition may find it difficult to communicate, judge situations well or plan ahead. Problems in short-term and autobiographical memory are not as common, although general knowledge about the world can be impaired.

        This type of dementia is more likely to affect people under 65. It can have an impact on the personality of a person, such as causing them to exhibit inappropriate and impulsive behaviour.

        Common symptoms of frontotemporal dementia are:

        • Personality changes
        • Speech problems
        • Neglect of personal hygiene
        • Memory problems
        • Difficulty with planning
        • Incontinence

        There aren't any treatment options to slow the progression of this condition. Some patients may find a degree of relief from speech therapy and activities that encourage physical movement and social connection

    • Lewy Body Dementia?

      • Lewy body dementia accounts for approximately 10% of dementia cases.

        This condition is caused by tiny, round deposits of protein (known as Lewy bodies) that damage the nerve cells in the brain.

        The effects of this type of dementia can be sporadic, so symptoms may vary from day to day.

        Common symptoms of Lewy body dementia are:

        • Tremors
        • Incontinence
        • Hallucinations
        • Disturbed sleep
        • Lack of balance
        • Difficulty swallowing food
        • Problems with movement
        • Difficulty staying awake and alert

        There's no known cure for Lewy body dementia but certain medications can be used to help reduce the impact of some of the symptoms. Physiotherapy can also be helpful, as can music therapy and other stimulating activities.

    • Young-Onset Dementia

      • Young-onset dementia, also known as early-onset dementia, will usually only present between the ages of 50 and 65. However, in rare cases, it can affect those as young as 30.

        Developing dementia as a younger person can present different challenges to those experienced by the majority of dementia patients. For example, if the individual is still raising young children or is caring for their parents then this creates additional issues.

        Symptoms will vary depending on which type of dementia that person has developed. Since young-onset dementia isn't common, it can often take a long time to get an accurate diagnosis.

    • Mixed Dementia

      • A diagnosis of mixed dementia is given when a patient has multiple types of dementia. This is the case for around 10% of dementia patients and is more likely to present for those over the age of 75.

        A combination of Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia is most common when it comes to mixed dementia.

        The symptoms of mixed dementia will vary depending on the combination of conditions each person has.

        Therapies to improve quality of life can be valuable, such as physiotherapy and cognitive stimulation therapy.

    • Parkinson's Disease Dementia

      • Parkinson's disease is a progressive illness that affects the brain. It presents when nerve cells in a specific part of the brain are lost, leading to a reduction of dopamine.

        The main symptoms are:

        • Stiff muscles
        • Impeded movement
        • Involuntary shaking, known as tremors

        People with Parkinson's disease may also experience issues with their memory, find it hard to sleep, lose their sense of balance and struggle with depression and anxiety.

        Parkinson's disease dementia can present between one and ten years after the initial diagnosis of Parkinson's. When this happens, a person's ability to think and reason will be affected, and they may begin to experience hallucinations and delusions.

        There is no cure for this disease but treatments are available to help manage the symptoms.