What Are The Four Most Common Types Of Dementia
Although dementia is a huge global health issue, a surprising number of people know little about the condition. In our latest blog we take a look at the 4 most common types of dementia in the UK.
Dementia affects around 850,000 people in the UK alone and the numbers continue to rise year after year, with statistics predicting at least 1 million people will be living with dementia by 2025. Although dementia has become a huge public health issue over the last few years, it’s a condition that is still widely misunderstood.
What is dementia?
Rather than being an illness in itself, the word dementia describes a set of symptoms caused by a variety of illnesses that affect the brain. These symptoms broadly involve difficulties with cognitive functions like planning, problem-solving, remembering, speaking and processing language.
There’s often confusion over ‘Alzheimer’s disease’ and ‘dementia’, with the terms being used interchangeably. In fact, people with Alzheimer’s have dementia but not everyone with dementia has Alzheimer’s. Although it’s the most common form, Alzheimer’s disease is only one of over 200 subtypes of dementia. However, the majority of people in the UK who live with a dementia will have one of the 4 most common types.
Two thirds of people with dementia have Alzheimer’s disease. Here, plaques develop within the brain, causing disruption to the normal connections between neurons and the progressive loss of brain cells. Memory problems are often one of the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s, with short-term memories being harder to recall than long-term memories. Other problems include difficulty with executive functions like planning and concentrating. Poor spatial awareness, disorientation, changes in mood and language difficulties, like struggling to find the right words, are also common symptoms of the disease.
Around 150,000 people in the UK are affected by vascular dementia. The symptoms can vary depending on the vascular problem that’s is the underlying cause. For example, stroke-related dementia, where the blood supply to the brain has been interrupted, will have different symptoms to subcortical dementia, where blood flow through tiny blood vessels deep within the brain becomes reduced over time. Different areas of the brain control different functions, so symptoms will vary depending on the specific area of the brain that has been affected. However, early symptoms can include problems with organising, problem solving, emotional control and speech. Motor control may also be affected if stroke was a causal factor, so the person may have muscle weakness on one side of their body.
Dementia with Lewy bodies
The third most common type of dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB or Lewy body dementia) accounts for around 15% of cases. The late actor Robin Williams was found to have had this type of dementia. In this condition, proteins form in the brain, disrupting neural signals and causing the loss of brain cells. The ‘Lewy bodies’ are the cause of DLB and Parkinson’s disease so the two conditions have parallels. Common symptoms are both physical and cognitive. Cognitive symptoms include hallucinations, sleep disorders and depression as well as problems with planning, organising and alertness. Physical symptoms often include constipation, stiffness, tremors and slow movement.
An estimated 5% of people with dementia have frontotemporal dementia. The frontal lobe is the part of the brain that controls executive functions such as organising and problem solving, as well as being the area that controls our emotions. The temporal lobes of the brain (near your ears) process language and, amongst many other functions, help us to relate names to objects and faces. As you might expect, any damage to brain cells in these areas can cause problems with all of the above. Personality and behavioural changes as well as speech and language comprehension problems are common.
Living with dementia
Although each type of dementia has common symptoms, every person will experience their dementia in their own unique way. However, recognising the symptoms of a particular type of dementia can help the person and those around them to better understand their condition and develop strategies to help them cope.
As homecare providers, we’re committed to providing positive dementia care to customers throughout the London Borough of Greenwich. If you’d like to talk to us about how our homecare and live-in care services could help you or a loved one cope with dementia, call our friendly team on 020 8851 5551.