What Are the Different Forms of Dementia?

When someone talks about a loved one or acquaintance with memory loss and confusion, they may typically say that the person has Alzheimer’s disease. However, did you know that Alzheimer’s disease is actually just one form of memory loss? Although Alzheimer’s is the most common type of memory loss, it’s not the only one. Alzheimer’s falls under the umbrella of dementia, and there are several types of memory loss.

As November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, it’s the perfect time to take a look at the different types of dementia to help give you an idea of how they’re the same and different:

Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s affects about 5.5 million Americans. The early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can include memory loss, a decline in thinking skills, and poor judgment. The cause of Alzheimer’s disease isn’t known yet, but researchers find that the buildup of amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain are likely behind the brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s.

Lewy body dementia. Believed to be the third most common type of dementia, Lewy body dementia is progressive dementia that causes a decline in thinking, reasoning, and independent function. It’s caused by abnormal microscopic deposits that damage brain cells, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. There is often an overlap with Lewy body dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease dementia. Movement symptoms are thought to be a more prominent early sign of Lewy body dementia compared with Alzheimer’s disease. 

Vascular dementia. After Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia is the most common form of dementia. It’s caused by conditions that lower blood flow to certain brain regions. In turn, those areas of the brain don’t get enough oxygen and nutrients. The end result is a decline in thinking skills that may start mildly and then gradually worsen. “Thinking difficulties may also begin as mild changes that gradually worsen as a result of multiple minor strokes or another condition that affects smaller blood vessels, leading to widespread damage,” according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Other forms of dementia. We’ve focused here on the three most common types of dementia, but there are several others, including:

  • Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease.
  • Frontotemporal dementia.
  • Huntington’s disease.
  • Normal-pressure hydrocephalus.
  • Posterior cortical atrophy.
  • Parkinson’s disease dementia.
  • Korsakoff syndrome.

It’s also possible to have more than one type of dementia at a time. This is referred to as mixed dementia. The following link from the Alzheimer’s Association provides a helpful summary of the different types of dementia. 

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