Dementia is an overall term for a set of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain. Symptoms may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language, severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. A person with dementia may also experience changes in mood or behaviour.
Dementia is progressive, which means the symptoms will gradually get worse as more brain cells become damaged and eventually die.
Dementia is not a specific disease. Many diseases can cause dementia, the most common being Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia (due to strokes). Some of the other causes of dementia include Lewy Body disease, head trauma, fronto-temporal dementia, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease. These conditions can have similar and overlapping symptoms.
Review this infographic: “What is Dementia?”
Getting a timely diagnosis can help you access information, resources and support through the Alzheimer Society, benefit from treatment, and plan ahead.
Here are some brief descriptions of other forms of dementia:
Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD)
The term “fronto-temporal dementia” covers a range of conditions, including Pick’s disease. Damage occurs in the frontal lobe and/or the temporal parts of the brain. These areas are responsible for behaviour, emotional responses and language skills. During the initial stages of FTD, memory is still intact, but the personality and behaviour of the person changes. In the later stages, the damage to the brain is usually more generalized, and symptoms usually appear to be similar to those of Alzheimer’s.
Click for further reading on Fronto-temporal Dementia from our National website.
www.ftd-picks.org This is the site of The Association for Frontotemporal Dementias (AFTD), an American based non-profit organization whose mission is to promote and fund research into finding the cause and cure for the frontotemporal dementias. The site provides information to persons diagnosed with frontotemporal dementias (FTD) and their families and caregivers. The site has detailed information about pick’s disease, corticobasal degeneration, progressive aphasia and semantic dementia.
Vascular Dementia (VaD)
VaD is a type of dementia caused by problems in the supply of blood in the brain. It may result from a single or multiple strokes. Strokes can be large or small, and can have a cumulative effect (each stroke adding further to the problem). VaD usually has a sudden onset immediately following a stroke. The symptoms may vary, affecting some areas of the brain more or less than others (t.g., language, vision or memory). VaD is the second leading cause of dementia.
Click for further reading on Vascular Dementia from our National website.
www.alzheimers.org.uk This publication by the Alzheimer Society of United Kingdom discusses the symptoms, types, risk factors, diagnostic process and treatment of vascular dementia. This easy to read brochure was prepared in 2005.
Lewy Body Dementia (LBD)
LBD is a form of progressive dementia identified by abnormal structures in brain cells called “Lewy bodies”.LBD usually has a rapid progression. In this form of dementia, there is progressive loss of memory, language, reasoning and other higher mental functions, such as calculation. Some features of Lewy body Dementia can resemble Parkinson’s Disease.
Click for further reading on Lewy Body Dementia from our National website.
www.lewbodydementia.org – This is the site of The Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA). The organization is dedicated to raising awareness of the Lewy body dementias (LBD), supporting patients, their families and caregivers, and promoting scientific advances. The Association’s purposes are charitable, educational, and scientific. The Directors of the LBDA Board are located throughout the US, and LBDA volunteers are from the US, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The site features information about Lewy Body dementia, its symptoms and treatment, links to on-line resources, caregiver tips and an email helpline.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD)
CJD is a rare form of progressive dementia characterized by degeneration and loss of nerve cells leading to the production of microscopic holes in the brain. CJD usually has rapid onset and decline. Early symptoms may include lapses in memory, mood swings similar to depression, lack of interest and social withdrawal.
Click for further reading on Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease from our National website.
www.ninds.nih.gov – This is the site of The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). The organization is dedicated to raising awareness, supporting patients, their families and caregivers, and promoting scientific advances. Their purposes are charitable, educational, and scientific. The site features information about Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, its symptoms and treatment, and links to on-line resources.
Mixed dementia has characteristics of both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. Researchers don’t know exactly how many older adults currently diagnosed with a specific type of dementia actually have mixed dementia, but autopsy studies indicate that the condition may be significantly more common than previously realized. Autopsy studies play a key role in shedding light on mixed dementia because scientists can’t yet measure most dementia-related brain changes in living individuals.
The concept of mixed dementia is clinically important because the combination of the two diseases may have a greater impact on the brain than either by itself.
Click for further reading on mixed dementia from our National website.
Young Onset Dementia
Dementia beginning before the age of 65 is known as young onset dementia (YOD). Many people assume that Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias only affect older people. However, about 1 person in every 1,000 under the age of 65 develops dementia.
Many people with YOD are in their 40s and 50s; they may:
- Be working at the time of diagnosis
- Have dependent children/parents living at home
- Have significant financial commitments (mortgage, children university fees, etc.)
- Be physically fit
- Be more aware of their symptoms
- Find it hard to accept losing skills
- Find it difficult to get information, support and services adapted to younger people with dementia
Mild Cognitive Impairment
People with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) have problems with memory, language, thinking or judgement that are greater than the cognitive changes associated with normal aging. Family, friends and the person with MCI may notice these changes and they can be measured in tests, but the changes in cognitive abilities are not serious enough to interfere with daily life and independence.
MCI may increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia. However, some people remain stable and others may even show an improvement in cognitive abilities over time. Not everyone diagnosed with MCI goes on to develop Alzheimer’s.
There is no single cause or outcome for people diagnosed with MCI. A wide range of cognitive abilities can be impaired, but for the majority of people memory is most affected.
A diagnosis of MCI can lead to many unanswered questions. By seeking out information, education and support, people with MCI and family members can find practical answers to help them live effectively with this condition.
Rarer forms of dementia
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, but there are many other rarer conditions that can lead to dementia. Download the following information sheets to learn more:
Niemann-Pick disease type C
Normal pressure hydrocephalus
Posterior cortical atrophy
Progressive supranuclear palsy
Traumatic brain injury
If dementia affects you, or someone you know, help is just a phone call away. Contact the Alzheimer Society at 204-943-6622 ( in Wpg) or 1-800-378-6699 (outside Wpg).