Although there are many, many different types of Dementia, the most common are: Alzheimer’s disease, Vascular Dementia, Lewy body Dementia and Frontotemporal Dementia.
Alzheimer’s Disease is caused by the development of “plaques” and “tangles” (also called neural unbundling) of nerve cells in the brain. It usually begins with forgetfulness and, as it progresses, can cause anger and violence, then fear, affects language and the ability to communicate needs and wants, limits reasoning and understanding, causes the lack of ability to care for oneself, causes loss of motor function and the ability to control bodily functions, including the ability to swallow, and ultimately results in death.
Vascular Dementia occurs when arteries feeding the brain become narrowed or blocked. While the symptoms may manifest abruptly, often after a stroke, some forms of vascular dementia progress slowly, making them difficult to distinguish from Alzheimer’s disease. A person may have Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia at the same time. Symptoms include problems thinking, language, walking, bladder control and concentration. Preventing additional strokes by treating the underlying diseases, such as high blood pressure, may halt or even reverse the progression of vascular dementia.
Lewy Body Dementia, the second most common type of progressive dementia, after Alzheimer’s disease, causes a progressive decline in mental abilities. It may also cause visual hallucinations, which may take the form of seeing shapes, colors, people or animals that aren’t there or, more complexly, having conversations with deceased loved ones. Another indicator of Lewy Body dementia may be significant fluctuations in alertness and attention, which may include daytime drowsiness or periods of staring into space. And, like Parkinson’s disease, Lewy Body dementia can result in rigid muscles, slowed movement and tremors. In Lewy Body dementia, abnormal round structures, called Lewy Bodies, develop in regions of your brain involved in thinking and movement.
Frontotemporal Dementia usually begins appearing between the ages of 40 and 65. This disease affects the lobes of the brain that are responsible for judgment and social behavior, often resulting in impolite and socially inappropriate behavior. The disease seems to run in families.