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What Are the Different Types of Dementia?

October 16, 2023 / Dementia

Dementia is an umbrella term that encompasses various cognitive impairments, and it manifests in different ways depending on its type. In this article, we’ll explore the five main types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and mixed dementia. Understanding these types can help individuals, families, and caregivers better navigate the challenges associated with dementia. The Senior Care AZ team is breaking down these types of dementia: the symptoms and the typical age these forms of dementia may begin to develop, so you can make informed decisions and care plans for individuals in your life who may be experiencing early or advanced signs of dementia. 

What Are the 5 Main Types of Dementia?

The five main and most common types of dementia are Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and mixed dementia. Each of these types of dementia will have some similar symptoms, but they will also have symptoms that are unique to each type of dementia. They may develop and be diagnosed at varying ages, with some beginning in younger adults while others do not develop until older age. 

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for a significant portion of dementia cases. It is characterized by the progressive degeneration of brain cells. Symptoms typically include memory loss, confusion, and difficulty with everyday tasks.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are usually gradual in their progression and will begin to grow stronger as the disease progresses. Individuals dealing with Alzheimer’s will have memory loss that disrupts their daily lives and daily tasks. These individuals may experience difficulty in planning or solving problems and may struggle with familiar tasks. Confusion with time and place is very common, as is trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships. Individuals may experience new problems with words in speaking or writing and may begin misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps. Decreased or poor judgment will become a problem, and withdrawal from work or social activities is often noted. Individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s may experience changes in mood or personality, including increased aggression or anger. 

Typical Age of Diagnosis

While Alzheimer’s can affect individuals in their 40s and 50s, it is more common in older adults. Most cases are diagnosed in people over the age of 65.

Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia. It is often caused by reduced blood flow to the brain due to strokes or other vascular issues. Symptoms can vary based on the area of the brain affected.

Symptoms of Vascular Dementia

Individuals suffering from vascular dementia may begin forgetting current or past events and suffering from memory loss. They may have difficulty misplacing items and may have trouble following instructions, directions, or learning new information. It is possible for individuals with vascular dementia to experience hallucinations or delusions. They may begin experiencing poor judgment and have trouble with planning and organizing. Difficulty concentrating, confusion, and slower thinking are also common symptoms of this type of dementia. Personality and mood changes have been noticed among individuals with vascular dementia.

Typical Age of Diagnosis

Vascular dementia can affect people as early as their 60s, but it is more common in older age groups.

Lewy Body Dementia

Lewy body dementia is characterized by abnormal protein deposits in the brain that begin to affect the brain’s chemical messengers. It shares some symptoms with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, making it challenging to diagnose.

Symptoms of Lewy Body Dementia

Individuals with Lewy body dementia will begin to experience cognitive decline, including an inability to concentrate, pay attention, or stay alert. They may experience disorganized or illogical ideas. Some individuals may have fluctuating cognition, seeming alert one moment and experiencing cognitive decline the next. Individuals may also experience motor symptoms and movement problems similar to those of an individual with Parkinson’s disease. This can include muscle rigidity, loss of coordination, and reduced facial expressions. Individuals may develop sleep disorders, such as insomnia or excessive daytime sleepiness. Visual hallucinations are common, as is autonomic dysfunction, among individuals with Lewy body dementia.

Typical Age of Diagnosis

Lewy body dementia often affects individuals in their 50s or later, and it is one of the common causes of progressive dementia in the elderly.

Frontotemporal Dementia

Frontotemporal dementia affects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain and is caused by the buildup of abnormal amounts or forms of tau and TDP-43 proteins that accumulate inside the neurons in these areas of the brain. Unlike Alzheimer’s, it typically manifests as behavioral and language problems rather than memory issues.

Symptoms of Frontotemporal Dementia

Individuals with frontotemporal dementia may experience behavioral and emotional symptoms, including difficulty with planning and organizing, impulsive behaviors, and emotional flatness or excessive emotions. They may have movement problems, such as shaky hands and difficulty with balance or walking. Language problems and communications issues are common, including difficulty making or understanding speech. Apathy and social withdrawal are common, as are repetitive behaviors, among individuals with frontotemporal dementia. 

Typical Age of Diagnosis

Frontotemporal dementia can affect individuals as young as their 40s and 50s, making it one of the more common dementias diagnosed in younger adults.

Mixed Dementia

Mixed dementia is a condition in which more than one type of dementia is present, often a combination of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. It can be challenging to diagnose because symptoms overlap.

Symptoms of Mixed Dementia

Symptoms vary based on the combination of types present but often include memory problems, language issues, and motor difficulties.

Understanding the different types of dementia is crucial for proper diagnosis and care. Each type may necessitate different treatments and approaches, making early identification essential for individuals and their families. If you suspect dementia, consult a healthcare professional for a comprehensive evaluation and appropriate guidance. For more information and resources on dementia and memory care options, visit the Senior Care AZ website or contact a member of our Arizona senior placement agency.