Home Mental Health Dementia: Symptoms, Types, and Causes

Dementia: Symptoms, Types, and Causes

by Gauri Kolhe

Dementia is an umbrella word that refers to ailments that may significantly impact a person’s memory, conduct, reasoning, personality, emotion, thoughts, and social skills to cause significant difficulties in day-to-day living.

Memory loss may have a variety of origins, including dementia, although it is most often associated with dementia. Memory loss is not diagnostic of dementia, even though it is often one of the first indicators of the illness that develops over time.

A variety of distinct diseases may cause dementia, and each of these diseases has its unique set of symptoms. Most of the time, doctors have no idea what causes patients to acquire these diseases.

Alzheimer’s disease has been the most prevalent cause of progressive dementia in those over 65. Several other conditions may also lead to dementia. Some of the symptoms of dementia may be reversed, depending on the underlying reason. It is believed that around half of all adults aged 85 and older suffer from dementia.

Which symptoms are associated with dementia?

Typical manifestations of dementia in its early stages

People might be affected differently by the various varieties of dementia, and everyone will experience the symptoms of dementia uniquely.

On the other hand, there are a few early symptoms that are pretty typical and may show up at any point in time before dementia is diagnosed. These are the following:

  • Memory deterioration,
  • difficulties in focusing,
  • experiencing difficulty in carrying out routine everyday chores, such as having difficulty determining the appropriate change to use while purchasing,
  • having trouble keeping up with a discussion or finding the proper term,
  • having trouble keeping track of time or location,
  • alterations in mood.

These symptoms are often relatively moderate and may only progressively worsen with time. Because the symptoms aren’t severe enough to be classified as dementia, this condition is commonly referred to as “mild cognitive impairment” (MCI).

These symptoms may go unnoticed by you and your loved ones for a long time, even if you have them. It’s possible that these symptoms won’t change at all or even become better in some individuals. On the other hand, some persons who have MCI will eventually acquire dementia.

Alzheimer’s-related symptoms

Alzheimer’s disease is the most prevalent reason people get dementia. Some of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s include:

  • Memory issues, such as recalling recent incidents, identities, and faces frequently,
  • repeatedly questioning something or someone,
  • growing challenges in doing jobs and performing activities that involve organization and preparation,
  • feeling disoriented in places that are not familiar to you,
  • having trouble finding the appropriate words,
  • inability to deal with numbers or cash in stores,
  • turning inward or showing more signs of anxiety.

Symptoms of vascular dementia

After Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia is the most prevalent kind of dementia caused by another disease. Mixed dementia is a term that refers to the condition that some individuals experience when they have both vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Vascular dementia has comparable symptoms to Alzheimer’s disease. However, memory problems may not be as noticeable in the initial stages.

The onset of symptoms may be somewhat abrupt and progress quite rapidly, but they can also come on slowly over several months or years.

The following are some examples of specific symptoms:

  • symptoms similar to those of a stroke, including transient paralysis or weakening of the muscles on one side of the body (these symptoms need immediate medical attention),
  • issues with mobility, such as limited mobility or a noticeable alteration in the manner in which a person walks,
  • problems with one’s thinking, such as having trouble paying attention, making plans, or reasoning,
  • alterations in mood, such as sadness and a propensity to become more sensitive.

Dementia with Lewy bodies-specific symptoms

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia with Lewy bodies have many of the same symptoms, and persons who have both conditions generally also have the following symptoms:

  • alternating states of wakefulness and sleepiness, as well as varying degrees of mental tiredness,
  • delusions of sight (seeing things that are not there),
  • exhibiting a general slowing down in their bodily motions,
  • multiple instances of falling and passing out,
  • a lack of restful sleep.

Frontotemporal dementia symptoms

Even though Alzheimer’s disease is still the most frequent form of dementia in adults under 65, a more significant proportion of those in this age range may have frontotemporal dementia than older individuals. Most instances are seen in adults between the ages of 45 and 65.

The following are some examples of early signs of frontotemporal dementia:

  • Emotional reactions include less sensitivity to the emotions of others, which may make a person seem callous and heartless.
  • Lack of social awareness may manifest via behavior such as telling stupid jokes or displaying a lack of tact; yet, other individuals may become quite reclusive and apathetic.
  • Language difficulties include difficulty finding the correct words or comprehending what others are saying.

It is becoming compulsive, like in the case of establishing preferences for strange foods, overeating, or drinking to an excessive degree.

Symptoms that are present in later stages of dementia

Memory loss and difficulty with speech often grow much more acute as the disease develops in dementia patients. In the latter phases, the individual will likely disregard their health, and they will need ongoing attention and care.

The following are some of the most often seen symptoms of advanced dementia:

  • Memory issues may cause individuals to forget familiar faces, even close relatives and friends, where they live, and what they are doing.
  • Communication issues include the potential for some individuals to lose the capacity to speak in the future entirely. Help may be gained by using non-verbal modes of communication, such as the use of facial movements, contact, and gestures.
  • Problems with mobility occur when a person’s ability to move about without assistance decreases. Some people may ultimately become unable to walk, so they will either need to use a wheelchair or remain bedridden.
  • “Behavioral and psychological signs of dementia” affect many individuals. Anxiety, depression, wandering, and violence are only some of the possible side effects.

In the latter stages of dementia, bladder wetting is prevalent, and some persons may also develop bowel evacuation.

In advanced dementia, it is typical for patients to struggle with their appetite and weight loss. Many individuals struggle to eat or swallow, which may put them at risk for choking, chest infections, and other medical complications.

What are the causes of dementia?

There are many distinct causes of dementia, some of which are difficult to differentiate from one another. Several medical disorders might induce signs of dementia, and this is particularly true in older persons.

A variety of disorders and infections, strokes, brain traumas, drug use, and dietary deficiencies are only a few of the factors that might lead to dementia.

The cerebral cortex is the brain region that governs perception, recollection, thinking, speech, and awareness. Dementias are characterized by a malfunction in this area of the brain. Specific illness processes cause direct damage to the cortex, while others disturb subcortical regions of the brain that would typically govern the function of the cortex.

Sometimes dementia may be prevented or even reversed if the underlying process doesn’t permanently destroy the cortical tissue. This is one of the conditions in which this is possible.

When defining dementias, medical practitioners may divide the causes into cortical or subcortical dementias or reversible and irreversible dementias. Both of these classifications are possible.

What are the distinct types of dementia?

The onset of dementia may be attributed to several conditions and external influences. Neurodegenerative diseases are characterized by a gradual but ultimately permanent decline in the number of neurons and brain function.

The following are the most prevalent types of dementia:

● Alzheimer’s dementia/disease

The most prevalent kind of dementia is Alzheimer’s dementia, which is also known as Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The root of the problem has not been established as of yet. Even though people with Alzheimer’s suffer from amyloid plaques (a buildup of aberrant protein), it’s unknown whether these plaques are responsible for the illness or just a side effect.

Even though the majority of cases of Alzheimer’s disease start beyond the age of 65, there are instances in which symptoms start appearing in people who are in their 40s or 50s. Alzheimer’s disease that develops early has a higher potential for fast progression than AD, which creates later.

● Vascular dementia

Vascular dementia, the second most frequent form of dementia, is brought on by numerous strokes inside the brain. Most of the time, these strokes may have gone unrecognized, and patients may not have shown any accompanying symptoms, such as numbness, weakness, or loss of vision. Patients with uncontrolled high blood pressure or unresolved heart disease are more likely to get vascular dementia.

● Frontotemporal dementia

Patients with frontotemporal dementia significantly reduce the size of the brain’s frontal and temporal regions. Patients with dementia may have noticeable changes in personality, impatience, poor judgment, forgetfulness, and difficulties finding the right words. Patients who have frontotemporal dementia may have muscular rigidity or loss of balance at some point throughout their illness.

● Hydrocephalus dementia

Hydrocephalus with normal pressure is characterized by an abnormal growth of the ventricles and fluid-filled compartments inside the brain. This growth puts pressure on various brain regions, causing issues like movement, memory, and the capacity to regulate urine flow. If identified, it may be treated by inserting a shunt to drain excess fluid accumulated in the body.

● Alcoholic dementia

Patients who drink excessively and become deficient in one of the B vitamins are at risk of developing alcoholic dementia. When this occurs, brain cells are incapable of performing their regular functions, which may lead to memory loss. This condition is known as the Korsakoff syndrome.

Malnourished individuals for reasons other than alcoholism are also at risk of acquiring this illness. However, alcoholics are the patients who exhibit this condition the most often.

● Trauma dementia

In recent years, it has come to our attention that traumatic brain injuries, such as concussions and pugilistic dementia might result in memory issues. Recurrent brain traumas or repeated concussions may, in certain instances, lead to the underlying alterations characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.

● Lewy body dementia

Lewy bodies are unusual aggregates of specific proteins that accumulate inside neurons. The accumulation is the root cause of Lewy body dementia and Lewy body disease. The predominant symptoms of this disorder are forgetfulness and other indications of a loss in cognitive function.

Nevertheless, people with this condition may also have intense hallucinations that seem very realistic. Some people who have Lewy body disorder acquire symptoms that are similar to those of Parkinson’s disease. These symptoms include tremors and slowness.

● Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is a highly uncommon ailment caused by an unstable protein that eventually results in dementia and the death of brain cells. However, some individuals have a history of this condition in their family, although most instances occur without an underlying reason.

Patients may be exposed to the aberrant protein less often than in the previously mentioned instances. An example of exposure to the outside environment is mad cow disease. This illness often worsens in a short period, usually less than a few years.

● Mixed dementia

Analyses of the brains of dementia patients over the age of 80 revealed most had a mix of vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease in their autopsies. Ongoing research is being done to investigate the effects of mixed dementia on both symptoms and treatment options.

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