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441 US 130,

East Windsor, NJ

(609) 336-7518

09AM to 05PM EST

Understanding Different Types of Dementia and Their Symptoms

Dementia is a condition that encompasses symptoms impairing brain function and behavior. It causes damage to the brain cells which diminishes the brain’s ability to do everyday tasks.

Dementia may not only lead to difficulties with remembering, thinking, and speaking. Instead, it refers to a multitude of brain-related disorders and conditions.

Knowing the various types of dementia is essential for getting the correct diagnosis, treatment, and support.

This blog aims to help you understand different types of dementia and their symptoms.

What Exactly is Dementia?

Dementia is progressive disease and the symptoms gradually worsen over time. Nerve cells in the brain sustain damage, causing it, and it cannot repair or reverse itself. Dementia primarily affects older persons, yet it isn’t regarded as a natural aspect of aging. Dementia hampers daily tasks as it affects thinking, communication, and memory. These can include:

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty communicating
  • Lack of concentration or paying attention
  • Problems with perception of sights
  • Difficulty in thinking or resolving problems
  • Changes in behavior and personality

Related, Early Signs of Dementia in Wom

What are the Different Types of Dementia and Its Symptoms?

Types of dementia and their symptoms

1. Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the most frequent form of dementia among people aged 65 and up. Based on the Alzheimer’s Association, this type accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases.

Alzheimer’s disease causes worsening memory loss and cognitive decline. In Alzheimer’s, protein deposits in the brain form plaques and tangles that harm nerve cell connections. As further neurons die, the tissue in the brain diminishes dramatically.

People mistakenly attribute early symptoms to normal aging but become more pronounced over time. These can include:

  • Memory problems, such as repeating questions or getting lost in familiar places. 
  • Difficulty performing tasks that require planning or organization
  • Confusion about time or place
  • Trouble having conversations or finding the right words

As Alzheimer’s advances, the symptoms become more severe. These include:

  • Getting very confused about where they are
  • Significant personality changes, increased anxiety and aggression
  • Forgetting close family members and one’s personal history details
  • Inability to perform routine tasks like bathing, dressing, and eating independently

Alzheimer’s has no current cure. Treatment focuses on managing symptoms to prolong the ability to function independently. They need support for all daily activities.

2. Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia occurs when the brain doesn’t get enough blood flow, often due to stroke or blood vessel disease. Experts believe it is the second most prevalent reason for dementia.

In vascular dementia, the cognitive abilities that tend to be most impaired are:

  • Attention
  • Planning
  • Organization
  • Problem-solving

Memory loss may not be as apparent early as Alzheimer’s disease. However, the condition can worsen over time as blood vessels become damaged.

Symptoms often begin suddenly after a stroke but can be subtle at first. Early signs include:

  • Impaired judgment or ability to make decisions
  • Struggling to keep up with mental tasks at home or work

Over time, additional symptoms may indicate significant vascular damage:

  • Impaired speech and language
  • Vision or movement changes
  • Difficulty with bladder control leading to frequent urination or incontinence

Diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and heart disease are all risk factors for vascular dementia. Management of vascular dementia focuses on treating these conditions to prevent further strokes. Sometimes, doctor’s recommend medications to alleviate related symptoms.

3. Lewy Body Dementia

Lewy body dementia is distinguished by an unusual accumulation of the alpha-synuclein protein in neurons. That causes chemical imbalances, brain cell loss, and impaired functioning.

People with Lewy body dementia often have significant changes in thinking, focus, and being awake. Symptoms might rapidly fluctuate from one day to another or even between the hours.

Early signs may include:

  • Acting confused about current events, place, or time
  • Difficulty multitasking
  • Less enthusiasm for usual interests or activities
  • Impaired reasoning, judgment or problem-solving

As Lewy body dementia progresses, additional symptoms often arise:

  • Alterations in mood like apathy, depression, or anxiety
  • Delusions, possible hallucinations
  • Movement symptoms like rigidity, slowness, gait imbalance, tremors
  • Sleep disturbances like acting out vivid dreams

Lewy body dementia increases one’s risk of falls. Medications can sometimes alleviate symptoms. Doctor’s recommend supportive care to help prevent injury due to limited mobility.

4. Frontotemporal Dementia

FTD damages brain areas for personality, behavior, language, and movement control. Nerve cell damage causes portions of the frontal and temporal brain lobes to atrophy (shrink).

People with bvFTD frequently see significant initial changes in how they relate to others.

  • Loss of contact or social awareness
  • Apathy and disinterest in usual activities
  • Stubbornness or unwillingness to change

Other FTD variants often first impair language or speech abilities, like having trouble finding words. Some people experience movement problems like muscle spasms, twitching or trembling.

Treatment for FTD focuses mainly on assisting with resultant disability and injury prevention. Caregiving is essential for safety when behavior symptoms like wandering and aggression occur. Medications don’t treat the disease directly.

5. Mixed Dementia

It is referred to as the condition of having brain changes associated with several different causes of dementia, such as mixed dementia. Vascular dementia frequently occurs along with Alzheimer’s pathology. Lewy body disease can also coexist. Mixed dementia is the most peculiar type of dementia in older adults.

In mixed dementia, a person will demonstrate symptoms consistent with more than one dementia subtype. Doctors create treatments for frustrating diagnoses by targeting symptoms from each contributing factor.

6. Young (Early) Onset Dementia

Young-onset dementia is the term used to describe the development of dementia-related decline before age 65. Up to about 9% of cases start before age 65. Alzheimer’s alone accounts for a significant proportion of early-onset dementia.

Symptoms often begin with impairment in:

  • Short term memory
  • Ability to come up with words
  • Visuospatial orientation

Younger individuals may have jobs and families they still actively participate in. The losses experienced can have profound psychosocial effects on all involved.

Related, What are the 7 Stages of Dementia

Less Common Forms of Dementia

Alzheimer’s and other types cause most dementia cases, but there are also some rare causes. It’s important to note most are still not curable presently. Some less common dementias include:

1. Atypical Alzheimer's Disease

Similar to regular Alzheimer’s, it lacks some of its standard brain features while symptoms remain identical.

2. Frontal Lobe Dementia

In this type, marked behavioral changes arise before any memory loss, which helps differentiate it from Alzheimer’s.

3. Posterior Cortical Atrophy

In posterior cortical atrophy, notable vision impairments arise early, although memory remains largely intact.

4. Cerebral Autosomal Dominant Arteriopathy

It is a genetic vascular dementia with frequent strokes that damage cognitive abilities. Headaches are also common with this condition.

common form of dementia

5. Corticobasal Syndrome

It causes loss of movement control on one side of the body coincides with impaired cognition like memory and judgment.

6. Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

It is a quickly progressing disorder that impairs memory, coordination, and vision. It may arise from contracted prion infection.

7. Huntington's Disease

It is a debilitating genetic disorder causing chorea, dementia, mood issues, and impaired cognition.

8. Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus

It causes Impaired gait, urinary control, and memory by spinal fluid build-up that puts pressure on the brain.

9. Progressive Supranuclear

Palsy Vision loss results from the inability to control eye movement and falls from mobility impairments.

Diagnosing Dementia

Getting an accurate, timely diagnosis is crucial after symptoms emerge. No one test in particular can conclusively identify dementia. Doctors at our Primary care clinic run a thorough evaluation, often involving:

  • Cognitive screening tests – assess memory, reasoning, coordination abilities
  • Physical exam to check nervous system functioning
  • Brain imaging from a CT scan or MRI
  • Lab tests to uncover possible vitamin deficiencies or thyroid issues
  • Psychiatric evaluation to identify treatable conditions like depression
  • Input from family members familiar with behavioral changes

Dementia gets worse slowly. Finding it gives more time to treat causes and handle symptoms before disability worsens.

Treatment Options for Dementia

Dementia can’t be cured completely, but our experts can temporarily provide treatments to manage symptoms and improve quality of life.

Medications

Drugs approved in the U.S. can help with cognitive symptoms of some dementia subtypes. These include,

  • Cholinesterase inhibitors 
  • NMDA receptor antagonist
  • Memantine
  • Antipsychotics

Remember, you should not take any drugs without the recommendation of your doctor. As inappropriate use may cause the condition to get worse. 

Dementia drugs only help with symptoms for a short time, usually a few months to a couple of years. None treat the underlying disease process or prevent nerve cell death. Many people experience minimal benefits from the drugs.

Non-pharmacological Interventions

Non-drug methods can aid dementia patients by lessening distressing behaviors or enhancing their quality of life.

  • Regular routines
  • Calming environments
  • Simple, familiar tasks
  • Engaging social interactions
  • Physical activity suitable to abilities
  • Music, art or pet therapy
  • Reminiscence therapy

Customized care plans based on the patient’s history, preferences, and abilities lead to the best daily results.

Caregiving Support

Family caregivers are critical in supporting those with dementia. As the illness progresses, patients require increased assistance from their loved ones in various aspects of their daily lives.

It includes help with everyday tasks, such as getting around and managing healthcare. Additionally, patients also rely on their family and friends for emotional support. Eventually, patients may need help caring for themselves as the illness worsens.

Caregivers should develop skills for managing the unique behavioral, emotional and physical needs of those with dementia. It includes learning how to:

  • Communicate effectively
  • Provide meaningful activity
  • Redirect during episodes of confusion
  • Establish structured routines
  • Adapt the home environment

They must also look after their physical and mental health needs to avoid burnout. Planning for worsening symptoms, long-term care placement options and legal and financial issues is also imperative.

PHNJ Can Help You Manage Dementia?

If you are suffering from dementia - pay a visit at our clinic. Our experts will make a personalized plan for you to cope with the condition effectively.

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The Final Words

Dementia poses a significant threat to our rapidly aging population. Early detection gives the best chance to alter the disease course and manage troubling symptoms. Accurate diagnosis guides the appropriate use of available medications and personalized non-drug therapies.

Our experts can help people with dementia and their caregivers in creative ways to connect, find meaning, and show respect. Our initiatives are critical in addressing persistent difficulties.  Contact us today and see how we may help you.

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Our Team

Dr. Farhan Malik Primary Care Physician
Dr. Shoaib Malik Primary Care Physician

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