Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe diseases of the brain which can affect various functions including memory loss, language, decision making, motor skills, personality, sequencing and vision. In this article we look at seven forms of dementia in order to help church leaders understand briefly what some of the common types of dementia are and their symptoms.
Whilst in some cases alcohol and drug abuse may cause dementia, most cases are caused by a brain disease and can’t be reversed.
The most common cause of dementia is
The World Health Organisation figures suggest that Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60-70% of cases of dementia. Making it by far the most common form. Early signs of Alzheimer’s disease can include forgetting names and recent events. Whilst the person may also appear depressed, depression is not part of Alzheimer’s disease and can be treated separately. Alzheimer’s disease causes brain cell death and the result of this is that as the disease progresses, people living with this form of dementia can experience:
· Mood changes
· Changes in behaviour
· Trouble speaking
· Confusion and,
· Problems walking
Alzheimer’s disease is far more likely to be in older adults (those over 65) with less than 10% of cases being early onset.
The second most common form of dementia is Vascular dementia (approximately 10% of cases). This is caused by a lack of blood flow to the brain, such as after a stroke, following plaque build-up inside arteries or bleeding on the brain. The location and number of the injuries will determine how the person is affected.
Symptoms of vascular dementia can appear slowly or suddenly, depending on the cause and can be like Alzheimer’s. The symptoms of memory loss and disorientation are common. However, depending on the area of the brain affected there can be more specific symptoms such as
· Problems Planning or Organising Themselves (often an early sign)
· Confusion and Disorientation (often an early sign)
· Impaired judgement
· Personality changes
· Slower thinking
· Movement problems, Poor Balance and Unsteadiness
· Difficulty with motor skills
· Trouble completing tasks or concentrating for long periods of time
Vascular dementia can also cause vision problems and sometimes hallucinations.
Dementia with Lewy bodies
Dementia with Lewy Bodies is considered by most experts as the third most common cause of dementia, accounting for 5-10% of cases. This is caused by small round protein deposits (called Lewy Bodies) building up in the nerve cells. The impact of this build up is that the chemical messages in the brain are interrupted causing memory loss and disorientation. Dementia with Lewy bodies shares many symptoms with Parkinson and Alzheimer diseases making it hard to tell the difference. There are also more specific symptoms that are associated with the disease:
· Sleep Disturbances (initial or early symptom)
· Problems Falling Asleep
· Falling Asleep Unexpectedly
· Vivid Dreams
· Visual Hallucinations
· Changes in Alertness and Attention
· Problems with Spatial Awareness
· Periods of Confusion
· Gait Imbalance
· Slower Movements
· Stiffness in Arms and Legs
· Shaking or Trembling
These features, as well as early visual-spatial impairment, can occur in the absence of significant memory impairment
It is not unusual for someone with Lewy Bodies to also have Alzheimer’s. When evidence of more than one dementia is recognised during life, the individual is said to have mixed dementia.
Frontotemporal dementia (also known as Picks disease) is a relatively rare form of dementia with less than 5% of cases. It is used to describe several types of dementia, all with one thing in common, it affects the front and side parts of the brain, which control both language and behaviour. Frontotemporal dementia is caused by the build-up of specific proteins which damage cells in areas of the brain called the frontal and temporal lobes. Nerve cells in the front and side regions become markedly atrophied (shrunken) as the disease progresses. This commonly affects people between the ages of 45 and 64 and, although scientists don’t know what causes it, it does run in families and people with it have mutations in certain genes.
Classic symptoms for Frontotemporal Dementia can include:
· A Loss of Inhibition and Motivation
· Using Words Incorrectly
· Changes in Behaviour
· Develop Unusual Beliefs, Interests and Obsessions
· Lack of Understanding of People’s Feelings
· Become Withdrawn
· Lose Social Awareness
· Become Inappropriate
· Forget the Meanings of Words
· Develop Compulsive behaviours
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is one of the rarest forms of dementia. This disease progresses very quickly, and people often die within a year of diagnosis.
As with other forms of dementia many of the symptoms are similar.
Early symptoms can include
· Slurred speech
· Confusion and loss of memory
· Numbness in Different Parts of the Body
· Difficulty Walking
· Double Vision
· Intense Feelings of Despair
· Withdrawal from Family and Friends
· Difficulty Sleeping
In the advanced and final stages symptoms become far worse and it is likely that they will become totally bedridden and unaware of their surroundings.
Huntington’s disease is a genetic condition that causes dementia. There are two different types, juvenile and adult onset. It is rare for someone to have the juvenile form which displays symptoms in childhood or adolescence. The adult form typically begins to show the first symptoms when the person is in their 30s or 40s. The disease causes a premature breakdown of the brain’s nerve cells, which can lead to dementia as well as impaired movement.
Symptoms associated with Huntington’s disease include impaired movements, such as jerking movements, difficulty walking, and trouble swallowing.
Mixed dementia is when someone has more than one type of dementia. This is very common, and the most common mix is Alzheimer’s and Vascular.
Mixed dementia can cause different symptoms in different people and differ dependant on which forms of dementia are present.
Most people with mixed dementia will have difficulty speaking and walking as the disease progresses.