According to the World Health Organization, more than 55 million people currently live with a dementia diagnosis. Dementia diagnoses in the United States will rise along with our aging population.
As more people understand living with dementia via a loved one's diagnosis, it's important to understand what dementia is. In this article, we'll look at the most common types of dementia, as well as the signs of dementia associated with this disease.
Dementia: An Overview
Dementia refers to the loss of cognitive function due to a brain disorder. While some may think dementia is becoming forgetful or losing memory, it's much more complicated.
Memory loss is a symptom of dementia but also a natural aging process. Memory loss that doesn't align with someone's age or overall health might result in a dementia diagnosis.
Other symptoms include loss of speech and motor function. Reduced problem-solving skills prevent daily activities. These symptoms worsen over time.
Knowing the types of dementia also helps caregivers understand dementia treatment and memory care benefits for seniors.
What are the Most Common Types of Dementia?
Dementia appears in several forms and under several classifications. Most types of dementia relate to abnormal proteins in the brain. Dementia can also be the result of rare diseases, but these are the most common types of dementia.
Alzheimer's disease is the form of dementia most people are familiar with. Alzheimer's disease makes up at least 60% of dementia cases. Some experts put that number closer to 80%.
Alzheimer's disease often affects adults older than 65. When someone younger than 65 develops symptoms of Alzheimer's, the condition is then classified as early-onset Alzheimer's disease.
Initial symptoms of Alzheimer's include forgetfulness and confusion. The inability to understand time and place is also common. As symptoms worsen, walking, speech and extreme behavioral changes are more noticeable.
Vascular dementia occurs after a stroke or other loss of oxygen to the brain. Unlike different types of dementia, memory loss is not usually the first noticeable symptom. Vascular dementia symptoms may include difficulty forming words and sentences, sudden behavior changes and loss of critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Occupational therapy can sometimes slow the symptoms of vascular dementia, but medical treatment can't reverse the changes in the brain.
Lewy Body Dementia
Like Alzheimer's, excess proteins and plaque in the brain cause Lewy body dementia. These proteins are also found in those dealing with Parkinson's disease.
Lewy body dementia progresses fast, and symptoms can be more pronounced. Hallucinations and aggressive behavior are common with Lewy body dementia. Difficulty moving and muscle stiffness are also symptoms of Lewy body dementia.
Getting Help for Someone With Dementia
Understanding the most common types of dementia is the first step toward understanding this disease. If someone in your life is exhibiting symptoms of memory loss or changes in behavior, see their doctor immediately. Early intervention helps everyone understand a dementia diagnosis and how to move forward.
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