The risk of dementia, broadly defined as a loss of mental function to the point where symptoms hinder a person’s ability to live and function independently, grows significantly as people age. As many as five to eight percent of people over 65 have some form of dementia. Over half of people 85 or older may have some form of dementia.
While there are different types of demential, there are some common patterns. Most forms of dementia involve some form of memory loss along with impairment of at least one or more additional mental functions. Dementia is also generally progressive, which means symptoms get worse over time.
While there are not yet complete cures for dementia, there generally are treatments available to help individuals manage their symptoms to a certain degree. Early diagnosis is essential in keeping symptoms manageable and allowing individuals to enjoy a high quality of life as possible. Please see a medical professional if you suspect you or a loved one is suffering from symptoms of dementia.
The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Sixty to eighty percent of instances of dementia can be traced to Alzheimer’s. Researchers still don’t fully understand the causes of Alzheimer’s disease and there is not yet an effective cure. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s include memory loss, depression, poorer communication skills, and increased disorientation and confusion. These symptoms get worse over time.
Vascular dementia is a type of dementia that can occur after an individual suffers a stroke. Vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia. The most common initial symptom of vascular dementia is impaired judgment and decision-making ability. Additional symptoms can include memory loss and a lack of motivation.
Lewy Body Dementia
Lewy body dementia, or lewy body disease, is the third most common form of dementia. Lewy body dementia can cause sleep problems, memory loss, and hallucinations. The name “Lewy bodies” refers to the types of abnormal proteins that form in the brain which researchers think causes the symptoms. Individuals with lewy body dementia generally experience worsening symptoms over time and there is not yet a cure.
Other Forms of Dementia
Some less common forms of dementia can result from late-stage Parkinson’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (commonly known as the human form of mad cow disease), Huntington’s disease, and from alcoholism.
Sometimes individuals will suffer from multiple causes of dementia. This type of dementia can simply be called “Mixed dementia.”