Nearly 10 million new instances of dementia are identified each year, affecting more than 55 million individuals worldwide. The condition is the seventh most common medical cause of mortality. The four primary varieties of dementia impose severe physical, mental, emotional, social, and financial burdens on both persons who have it and their devoted carers.
Continue reading to learn more about the many varieties of dementia, how to reduce your chance of developing them, and how to halt their progression.
What Is Dementia?
Dementia is a syndrome rather than a disease. These are a combination of physical abnormalities and dementia signs and symptoms that frequently co-occur and for which the underlying causes aren’t fully understood.
Your brain’s ability to operate (i.e., your cognitive or mental functions) is impaired by the four main kinds of dementia, generally gradually and over time.
Who’s at Risk for Dementia?
Is dementia a common occurrence with aging? It’s not. However, the majority of those who suffer from the various forms of dementia are older than 65, and the risk increases significantly with each decade after this.
Additionally, they can raise your risk or result in 1 or more of the 4 kinds of dementia:
- Family (e.g., parent or sibling) history
- Certain health conditions and lifestyle behaviors such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking nicotine
- Reversible causes such as heavy and prolonged use of alcohol, heavy metal toxins (such as lead and mercury), removable brain tumors, Lyme disease, multiple sclerosis, vitamin B12, thiamin or niacin deficiency and side effects of medicines to treat anxiety, colds and flu, insomnia and depression
4 Main Types of Dementia Stages and Symptoms
Over a few years to a decade or more, mental abilities typically degrade. However, this varies from person to person and frequently depends on the sort of dementia you have.
Early symptoms of the 4 main types of dementia can be subtle and easily missed. You may find it harder to:
- Complete your daily tasks
- Comprehend some aspects of language
- Find and use the right words
- Focus clearly and think abstractly
- Navigate through congested areas, even in familiar places
- Perform more complex tasks
- Reason and use good judgment
- Remember recent events
At this point, you may find you just can’t:
- Control your behavior
- Keep track of time
- Know where you are most of the time
- Learn and recall new concepts
- Name and recognize objects you once knew (called anomia)
- Perform basic self-care tasks (e.g., bathing, dressing, eating and toileting)
- Recognize certain people
- Recall large chunks of information from your past
- Understand much of what you see and hear
You get lost more often, even in your home. And some of your traits become pronounced. For instance, concerns (e.g., money) become obsessions.
You may also come across as:
Late-stage dementia symptoms involve losing almost all mental functions and muscle control. Hallucinations and delusions are also common symptoms.
Once you reach the advanced stages of the 4 main types of dementia, you likely can’t:
- Control bladder or bowel functions
- Eat or drink without choking or aspirating (inhaling bits of food, liquids or mouth secretions into your lungs)
- Perform any self-care measures
- Recognize your face or that of family members or friends (called prosopagnosia)
- Recall any memories
- Talk or articulate words normally (called dysarthria)
- Use or understand language (called aphasia)
- Walk, move or get out of bed without help
What Are the 4 Main Types of Dementia?
The 4 main types of dementia include:
Is Alzheimer’s a sort of dementia, you may be wondering. With between 60% and 80% of cases, it is the most prevalent type of dementia.
You gradually lose cognitive ability if you have Alzheimer’s. Your brain deteriorates in some areas. Due to this, nerve cells are destroyed and those that are left have decreased neurotransmitter response.
These are the chemical messengers that your brain uses to communicate between nerve cells. Your levels of acetylcholine in particular decrease.
Acetylcholine aids in memory formation, learning, and concentration. Recent memory is frequently significantly more affected than other mental skills by this type of dementia.
Your mind creates:
- Abnormal protein deposits (plaques) called beta-amyloid
- Clumps of dead nerve cells around a beta-amyloid core called senile or neuritic plaques
- Twisted and disorganized strands of protein fibers in your nerve cells called neurofibrillary tangles
- Higher levels of an abnormal protein called tau — a component of beta-amyloid and neurofibrillary tangles
- Abnormal proteins called Lewy bodies, although the other formations are more common
In older persons, this is the second most typical kind of dementia. It frequently manifests as a mixed dementia type, which means it coexists with Alzheimer’s disease.
Vascular dementia risk is increased by having a large stroke [or numerous mild ones]. An infarct results from a stroke when blood flow to certain areas of the brain is blocked (death of affected brain tissue).
Your risk for stroke and this particular type of dementia is increased by health issues and activities that restrict blood flow, which can harm certain brain regions. Smoking is one of them, along with:
- Atrial fibrillation (quivering abnormal heart rhythm that can cause blood clots to travel from your heart to your brain)
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Thrombolia (excessive blood clotting)
Symptoms of vascular dementia frequently advance up and down in steps. They suddenly go worse, reach a plateau, or partially improve. They become worse again if another stroke occurs.
Dementia With Lewy Bodies
Among the four basic forms of dementia, this one comes in third. Your nerve cells are destroyed by lewy bodies.
These proteins develop all over the outer layer of your brain (i.e., gray matter and cerebral cortex). Your cerebral cortex governs your capacity for thought, perception, and language use and comprehension.
Lewy body dementia can lead to:
- Dramatic shifts in alertness and mental function
- Issues with planning, problem-solving, doing complex tasks, copying or drawing and using good judgment
- Psychotic symptoms such as [detailed and often threatening] hallucinations and [complex and bizarre] delusions
- Symptoms seen with Parkinson’s disease such as stiff muscles, shuffling steps, balance issues, tremors and stooped posture
- Sleep problems such as rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder, causing you to physically act out your dreams while sleeping
- Fainting and problems urinating, having a bowel movement or regulating body temperature (which can cause excess sweating or not enough) due to a haywire autonomic nervous system.
Frontotemporal dementias are inherited in around half of cases. This type of dementia also exhibits the characteristic symptoms of the four major categories. However, dementia symptoms frequently appear before the age of 65. Additionally, you can typically perform daily duties and maintain your sense of time, place, and date.
Your brain cells have abnormally high levels of tau when you have this type of dementia. Due to the frontal and temporal lobes of your brain atrophying (shrinking), it results in the loss of nerve cells.
These parts of your brain assist in regulating personality and conduct. As a result, undesirable behavioral and personality changes could follow.
You might use crude language while speaking to others and engage in repetitive actions like going to the same location every day, picking up and fiddling with insignificant objects, or putting things in your mouth.
Your inhibitions and impulse control may also be compromised, which could increase your propensity for overeating and increase your desire in sex. Additionally, you’re more prone to disregard personal cleanliness, suffer from aphasia, dysarthria, anomia, and prosopagnosia.
How to Diagnose Dementia
To diagnose dementia, your doctor starts with a:
- Medical history
- Physical exam
- Memory and other cognitive tests to gauge your mental status
Your doctor may then order:
- Blood tests, including a check of your thyroid hormone and vitamin B12 levels
- Brain scan such as computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to check for abnormalities that cause dementia
- Positron emission tomography (PET) or single-photon emission CT (SPECT) to identify which of the 4 main types of dementia you have
Can Dementia Be Prevented?
There is no foolproof technique to stop it. However, adopting healthy lifestyle practices can help you live longer and reduce your risk of developing the four main kinds of dementia.
- Follow a wholesome eating plan, especially one that supports a healthy weight (e.g., Mayo Clinic diet) and your heart and blood vessel health (e.g., Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay [MIND] diet)
- Get at least 30 minutes of brisk exercise 5 or more days a week
- Keep your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels in check
- Quit smoking or never start
- Interact with others often and stay socially active
- Stimulate your mind (e.g., play a musical instrument, work on puzzles or play games that challenge your brain)
How Are the 4 Main Types of Dementia Treated?
Most forms of dementia have no known treatments, although vascular dementia can be halted or reversed once the underlying sickness or cause is addressed. The care strategy entails:
Measures to Keep You Safe and Oriented
In order to keep you safe, organized, and stimulated, nurses or occupational and physical therapists can visit your home and suggest modifications. Additionally, they can judge how competent you are in challenging scenarios like driving or preparing food.
Your health care team recommends strategies to maintain:
- Structure to help you feel more secure and oriented. Changes to your daily routine, caregivers and surroundings must be explained beforehand using clear and simple terms.
- Scheduled activities that help you feel productive, independent and less anxious, depressed or stressed. These often include simple activities that you once enjoyed or kept your interest prior to having dementia.
- Proper amounts of stimulation. Hobbies and interests can help keep you engaged with life and your mind alert. But these must be kept simple or broken down into small actions to help keep you from getting overwhelmed and more confused by too much stimulation.
Medicines to Support Mental Function
These medicines may improve mental function for a period of time. They include:
- Cholinesterase inhibitors (e.g., donepezil, galantamine, rivastigmine) can help with Alzheimer’s and dementia with Lewy bodies. These help your nerve cells communicate better by blocking an enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine called acetylcholinesterase.
- Memantine to help with moderate to severe dementia and slow the loss of your mental functions. It blocks receptors in your brain that bind to a chemical [thought to damage brain cells] called glutamate.
Medicines for Disruptive Behavior
If measures to support safety and curb disruptive behavior don’t help, these medicines may be considered:
- Antipsychotic drugs for advanced dementia with psychotic behavior. These medicines help with agitation and outbursts but work best for delusions, hallucinations and paranoia.
- Antiseizure drugs may also help with violent outbursts.
Medicines to Treat Other Symptoms of Dementia
Antidepressants can help with depression. And a short course of sedatives may be prescribed to help relieve anxiety.
By: Miss Cherry May Timbol – Independent Reporter
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