Dementia is not a disease in itself. Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a group of symptoms that occur when brain cells stop working properly. This happens inside specific areas of the brain, which can affect how people think, remember and communicate.
There are different types of dementia and it is possible to have more than one type at the same time. Alzheimer’s is sometimes seen with vascular dementia or dementia with Lewy bodies. This is called ‘mixed dementia’. The four most common types of dementia are:
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for about two-thirds of cases in the elderly. During the course of the disease, the structure of the brain changes, leading to the death of the brain cells. Early sympoms are related to short-term memory loss, but, as the disease progresses, there may also be problems with language, judging distance, concentration and confusion.
Vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease and describes a set of symptoms that can include difficulties with thinking, problem-solving, language or problems perceiving objects in three dimensions. Later symptoms include memory loss. Vascular dementia can occur when the brain is damaged due to decreased blood flow, possibly following a stroke.
Dementia with Lewy Bodies is where sperical structures develop inside nerve cells, leading to degeneration of brain tissue. The symptoms that a person may experience will depend partly on where the Lewy bodies are in the brain, but may include problems with movement, mental abilities and hallucinations.
Fronto-temporal dementia describes a type of dementia where damage is ususally focused in the front part of the brain. Personality and behaviour are initially more affected than memory.
For further information click here to visit the Alzheimer’s Society website
For a list of all Alzheimer’s Society factsheets click here
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE WORRIED ABOUT YOUR MEMORY
As we get older, many of us find that our memory is not as good as it used to be but is it a normal sign of ageing or something to be worried about?
If you have been experiencing memory problems, you should make an appointment to see your GP who will listen to your concerns and may refer you to the Memory Assessment Service. Set up by Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and the Alzheimer’s Society, the service investigates and diagnoses memory and other associated problems. If a diagnosis of dementia is made, you will be given advice and treatment options. The Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Adviser service offers information about all aspects of living with dementia and supports people to access services. People with dementia and their carers can contact a Dementia Adviser whenever they need further information or support to find other services.
However, there are also other medical reasons for memory loss including infections, vitamin deficiencies and depression, so the earlier you seek advice from your GP the better.