Causes of Dementia

A Review of the Types of Dementia

There are many different types and causes of dementia. Rarely does someone have primary dementia, with only one contributing event. Most dementias are considered mixed dementias, having more than one causative factor.

Dementia is not a disease itself, but actually a combination of symptoms that results from a disease, infection, injury or neurological event. The primary symptoms usually present with short term memory loss and impaired mental functioning that interferes with the ability to function on a daily basis.

Types of Dementia

Some researchers like to break the different types of dementia into 2 main categories, depending on where the damage to the brain is occurring. The two basic categories of dementia are:

  1. Cortical Dementia: The area of the brain affected in these dementias involved the cerebral cortex, or outer layer of the brain. Alzheimer's Dementia and Creutzfeldt Jakob disease are both cortical dementias. These people tend to show problems with memory, reasoning and language.
  2. Subcortical Dementia: In these dementias, it is the brain area underneath the cerebral cortex that is affected. Two types of subcortical dementia are Huntington's Disease and Parkinson's Dementia. People who suffer from subcortical dementia often present with motor dysfunction, personality changes and mood disorders.

There are some causes of dementia, like multi infarct dementia, that affect both the cortical area of the brain and the subcortical area.

Causes of Dementia

Listed below are some of the most common types of dementia. Click on the link provided to review each article to understand the associated pathophysiology, expected mental changes, diagnostic criteria, and prognosis and treatment options.

  • Alzheimer's Dementia: This is probably the most common causes of dementia and the most well known. It is considered a cortical dementia and is progressive and irreversible.
  • Vascular Dementia : This is typically associated with arteriosclerosis, or "hardening of the arteries". Without adequate blood flow, the brain cannot function the way it is supposed to function.
  • Lewy Body Dementia: The presence of Lewy Bodies in the brain is what is used to diagnose this condition. This is also irreversible and often presents with visual hallucinations and frequent falls.
  • Parkinson's Disease: This irreversible subcortical dementia typically affects motor function and may present with tremors and emotional lability, inappropriate and unstable emotional displays.
  • Multi Infarct Dementia: Brain injury occurs in this disease process from a serious of small strokes, or a large stroke. People who have frequent TIA's (transient ischemic attacks, or mini strokes) are at high risk for multi infarct dementia.
  • Frontotemperol Dementia: FTP is a group of diseases, including Pick's Disease , where the damage to the frontal and temporal areas of the brain occurs. These areas of the brain are responsible for decision making, behavioral control, emotion and language.

  • Huntington's Disease : One of the subcortical dementias, this progressive disease is hereditary and is devastating to anyone affected by it. People who suffer from Huntington's Disease develop uncontrolled muscle movements, called Huntington's Chorea.

  • Alcohol Dementia : Chronic, long term alcoholics are at high risk to develop alcohol dementia. Some of the affects of this type of dementia are considered reversible if the person affected chooses to stop drinking.
  • Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease: This is a rapidly progressing and fatal infection of the brain, leading to mental decline and myoclonus, twitching of the muscles. It is sometimes referred to as "Mad Cow Disease" and affects the primarily middle aged adults.
  • Mixed Dementia: One of the most common causes of dementia, mixed dementia simply means that the presenting symptoms have more than one cause. Some may be irreversible, but some may respond well to treatment. It is important in mixed dementia to treat those causes that are treatable, even if one of the underlying factors may be irreversible.
  • Pick's Disease : One of the types of frontotemporal dementia , Pick's disease refers to a progressive, neurodegenerative process within the brain. It is extremely rare and usually fatal within 2 - 10 years.

  • Senile Dementia: This term is typically used to cover any dementia that occurs later in life. The term is no longer widely used within the medical community. If someone you love receives a diagnosis of senile dementia, more diagnostic tests need to be completed to identify the cause or causes of the dementia.
  • Binswanger Disease: This type of dementia is a type of small vessel vascular dementia. It usually begins around 55 - 64 years of age and affects the white matter of the brain, making it a cortical dementia.
  • Corticobasal Degeneration : This cause of dementia results from abnormal proteins in the brain, causing memory loss and motor function problems. At the onset, the motor issues may appear on just one side of the body, but as the disease progress, both sides will be affected.
  • Dementia from Traumatic Injury: This group of dementias result from head injury of some sort. Boxer's encephalopathy, or dementia pugilistica, results from a serious of concussions over time that result in damage in the brain in a variety of areas.

Your physician should run tests to determine which type, or cause, of dementia your loved one has. You will need a clear diagnosis in order to plan for the future and determine what you can expect along the way.

Any diagnosis of dementia is devastating. If you, or your loved one, is diagnosed with this condition, follow all the directions given to you by the doctor. Discuss with him adding some of the best vitamins for memory , but don't be surprised if he states they won't do any good. Physicians are not typically trained to look at holistic medicine as part of a treatment protocol, although they are getting better.

Most patients will be diagnosed with a mixed variety, and within that there can be some treatable causes of dementia that should be aggressively treated.

Any stressor, either emotional or physical, such as a Urinary Tract Infection , can make the underlying disease worse. Treating those causes of dementia may lead to an improvement in function and quality of life.

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