Dementia affects 35.6 million people worldwide. Chances are, you will have a loved one who suffers from dementia at some point in your life, so it’s important to understand the different causes and symptoms.
Dementia is not a specific disease; it’s a general term referring to a wide range of conditions that cause a decline in mental ability. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of all cases. It’s caused by deposits of protein fragment or twisted strands of protein in the brain. Patients experience difficulty remembering recent events or conversations, poor communication, behavior changes, and difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking. Others types of dementia include:
Cause: occurs because of brain injuries such as bleeding or blood vessel blockage.
Symptoms: inability to make decisions, plan or organize.
Dementia With Lewy Bodies
Cause: abnormal clumps of the protein alpha-synuclein that develop in the cortex.
Symptoms: Sleep disturbances, hallucinations and muscle rigidity, along with memory loss similar to Alzheimer’s.
Cause: alpha-synuclein clumps that form deep in the brain and cause degeneration of nerve cells.
Symptoms: problems with movement and other symptoms similar to dementia with Lewy bodies.
Cause: no cause has consistently been linked to all cases.
Symptoms: changes in personality or behavior, and problems with language.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (“mad cow disease”)
Cause: Misfolded prion protein throughout the brain that causes the brain to malfunction.
Symptoms: impaired memory and coordination, and changes in behavior which is rapidly fatal.
Cause: a single defective gene on chromosome 4 causes abnormalities in brain protein.
Symptoms: mood changes, decline in reasoning and thinking skills, and abnormal involuntary movements.
Causes: a severe deficiency of thiamine levels in the brain, often caused by alcohol misuse.
Symptoms: severe memory problems.
What are the Symptoms of Dementia?
There are many warning signs to look for in someone who may be experiencing the onset of dementia. Here are a few common symptoms:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life.
- Difficulty solving problems.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks.
- Confusion related to time or place.
- Problems understanding visual images or spatial relationships.
- Problems speaking or writing.
- Misplacing items.
- Poor judgment.
- Withdrawal from work or social life.
- Changes in personality or mood.
Source: Alzheimer’s Association