An umbrella term for a number of conditions, dementia is a loss of cognitive function, behavioral control and physical ability. Dementia can cause memory loss, lack of emotional control, inability to focus and other problems that interfere with daily activities. Dementia may affect up to 50% of people age 85 or older, and while advanced age is a risk factor for developing it, it isn’t a normal part of aging. Instead, dementia results from various conditions that damage brain cells.
In some cases, dementia-like symptoms are caused by medication or another health issues. Correcting these problems typically causes dementia symptoms to stop. When true dementia is present, treatment may slow the progression of the disease, but no cure is currently available.
The Different Types of Dementia
There are many types of dementia. The most common include:
Alzheimer’s disease. The source of up to 80% of all dementia cases, Alzheimer’s often runs in families. One of the telltale signs is difficulty recalling recent events. As the disease progresses, a person with Alzheimer’s may experience significant personality changes or difficulty walking or talking.
Frontotemporal dementia. Though this can cause problems speaking or understanding others, frontotemporal dementia most noticeably affects personality and behavior. People with frontotemporal dementia may ignore daily duties and say offensive things without concern for others.
Lewy body dementia. As a progressive dementia, Lewy body dementia causes a range of symptoms, including confusion, memory loss, staring spells, stiffness and difficulty sleeping. Lewy body dementia may also lead to visual hallucinations.
Mixed dementia. A combination of two or more types of dementia, mixed dementia is more common after age 80. Because symptoms of various dementia types overlap, it can be difficult to determine which conditions are present.
Vascular dementia. Associated with strokes or mini-strokes (transient ischemic attack or TIA), symptoms worsen with each stroke. Varying symptoms may arise, depending on the part and amount of the brain affected.