Dementia is an umbrella term to describe a condition characterized by global cognitive decline that is significant enough to interfere with daily functioning. Symptoms may vary depending on the diagnosis and the individual, but in general can include:
- Memory loss
- Decline of cognitive abilities, including decision making, language and navigating familiar spaces
- Difficulty with coordination
- Impaired communication
- Inappropriate behavior
- Changes in mood or personality
While there is no cure for most forms of dementia, symptoms may be better managed and controlled with treatment. Early diagnosis and intervention is crucial in slowing symptom progression.
TYPES OF DEMENTIA
It is not uncommon for a person to have more than one type of dementia. In fact, having one dementia diagnosis increases the risk of having another dementia diagnosis. The following is a nonexclusive list of dementia types.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. While the initial cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not fully known, research has shown that the physical changes that lead to symptoms are related to deposits of abnormal proteins in the brain. These abnormal proteins are known as amyloid beta plaques and tau tangles. Alzheimer’s disease is difficult to diagnose, and because it shares symptoms with many other conditions, it can be misdiagnosed.
Second only to Alzheimer’s disease in terms of prevalence, vascular dementia is the result of restriction of blood flow to the brain, which leads to oxygen deprivation and cell death. The symptoms and severity of vascular dementia depend on the severity of the stroke or strokes and the brain area affected. Numerous small strokes can cause cumulative damage over time, while a single large stroke can result in severe damage immediately.
Dementia with Lewy Bodies
Like Alzheimer’s, this type of dementia is caused by abnormal protein deposits in the brain. In the case of dementia with Lewy bodies, the alpha-synuclein protein misfolds and forms structures known as Lewy bodies. The symptoms and brain changes that occur in dementia with Lewy bodies share similarities to both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and can be difficult to diagnose.
This form of dementia encompasses a number of conditions that affect the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, areas of the brain that help govern memory, speech and language, cognitive function, voluntary movements and sensation processing. Frontotemporal dementia is often mistaken for Alzheimer’s disease, but it generally presents earlier.
Other Forms of Dementia
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease— Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease belongs to a family of conditions known as prion diseases. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is the result of misfolded proteins in the brain, and is sometimes acquired through infected meat or tissue. In other cases, the disease is hereditary.
Huntington’s disease—Huntington’s disease is the result of a defective gene that causes a variety of cognitive and motor symptoms. Symptoms usually begin in the person’s 30s or 40s and continues to progress for approximately 10 to 30 years.
Normal pressure hydrocephalus—Normal pressure hydrocephalus is caused by the brain’s ventricles filling with cerebrospinal fluid. Unlike most other forms of dementia, normal pressure hydrocephalus can be reversed by draining the ventricles.
If you notice dementia symptoms in yourself or a loved one, it is vitally important to get a diagnosis as early as possible. Early diagnosis and intervention may help slow the progression of your condition and allow you to get the right help and resources early to maintain a higher standard of living for longer. Request a consultation at The CRCNJ today.
Click here to make an appointment or call 973-850-4622 to learn more about how The CRCNJ can help.