Alzheimer’s disease is one type of dementia, but there are many types and causes of dementia. People sometimes use the terms interchangeably, but they are not the same.
- thinking and focus
- problem solving abilities
- language use
- visual perception
This article looks at the types of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease more specifically, and the symptoms and treatment options associated with both.
Dementia describes a collection of symptoms with no specific cause. It can affect a wide range of mental functions. Many different conditions have links with dementia.
- vascular dementia, which results from stroke and other conditions that block blood flow to the brain
- Lewy body dementia, which is a result of unusual protein deposits in the brain
- frontotemporal disorders, which are due to damage to the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
- Huntington’s disease
- chronic traumatic encephalopathy due to repeated traumatic brain injury
Some factors and conditions can trigger symptoms that resemble those of dementia. These include:
- the use of and interactions between
- deficiencies in
vitamin B12and possibly vitamin D
- high alcohol consumption
- traumatic head injury
- thyroid, kidney, or liver problems
- depression, anxiety, or stress
It is possible to have multiple types of dementia. The term for this is
Causes and risk factors
The cause depends on the type, but the exact causes of many forms of dementia are currently unclear.
Dementia is not an inevitable part of aging, but age is one of the main risk factors. In fact, up to 50% of people aged 85 years and older may have a type of dementia.
Also, in the United States, around 11.3% of people aged over 65 years currently have Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. This number rises to 34.6% in those aged 85 years and older. Symptoms tend to worsen with age.
It is possible to develop dementia at a younger age, but the condition is more common among older adults.
Warning signs and symptoms
The symptoms of dementia range in severity, and they also vary depending on the area of the brain that the condition affects. The most
- anxiety and distress
- low mood
- detachment and disinterest
- repeating the same questions
- sleep disturbances
- walking around for no apparent reason
- inappropriate behaviors, such as social and sexual disinhibition
Symptoms can take time to appear, and significant damage may be present before a person visits a doctor. This may make treatment more challenging.
In Alzheimer’s disease, researchers believe that a buildup of unusual proteins forms plaques and tangles in the brain and causes symptoms.
These proteins surround brain cells and can affect their ability to communicate. This eventually causes damage to the cells until they can no longer function.
Warning signs and symptoms
In time, a person may also experience:
- mood and behavioral changes
- confusion about times, places, and events
- unfounded suspicions about people around them
- difficulty using and understanding words
- physical problems, such as difficulty swallowing and walking
There is currently no cure for dementia, and current treatments cannot reverse the damage. However, if symptoms arise due to vitamin deficiencies or drug use, there may be options to prevent the condition from progressing.
Other treatment options depending on the type of dementia.
Treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, for example, aim to relieve symptoms and
- taking medications
- ensuring personal comfort and safety
- having exposure to sunlight and getting regular exercise, which can help with sleep
- undergoing cognitive training or cognitive rehabilitation therapy to help develop habits that help manage daily life
Some drugs aim to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, while others help manage related issues, such as sleep problems, anxiety, or other symptoms. The person and their caregiver will need to work with a doctor to find suitable treatments at each stage.
Lifestyle strategies, such as getting regular exercise and eating a varied diet, contribute to overall health and may help prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
The outlook for people with dementia depends on the cause. A
For Alzheimer’s disease, a person who receives a diagnosis at the age of 65 years will live, on average, another
Many types of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, are progressive conditions that worsen over time. However, the rates of progression vary widely.
There is currently no cure, but treatment may help manage the symptoms.
Dementia is a condition that affects a person’s ability to think. Specifically, it can impact their memory, reasoning, mood, and other features. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, but there are several other types and causes.
Treatment will depend on the cause, but it may involve medications and certain lifestyle strategies.
Caring for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease can be challenging. Get some tips on caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease here.