FAGAL | Federación Alzhéimer Galicia

Types

Dementias can be classified according to different criteria:

I. The cause: Primary dementia: the cause is unknown. Secondary dementia: as a consequence of a main disorder. Mixed dementia: both primary and secondary dementia are overlapped.

II. Age of onset.  Presenile or young dementia: it occurs before age 65. Senile or old dementia: it occurs after age 65.

III.  Reversible or irreversible dementia.

IV. Areas of the brain affected. Cortical dementia: brain damage is on the outer layer of the brain and affects language, behavior, memory, etc. Subcortical dementia: affects the regions lying under the cortex.

 

1. Vascular dementia 

Vascular dementia is the second most frequent group of dementias after Alzheimer’s disease (Merck, 2007).

Vascular dementia refers to a progressive loss of cognitive functions caused by vascular damage or brain disease.  (NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke) People affected with vascular dementia have difficulties planning and managing complex tasks and daily activities. In this dementia, cognitive difficulties can coexist with neurological and physical signs, such as difficulty walking, paralysis on one side of the body or visual field loss. Memory is maintained compared to other types of dementia. Other symptoms may include lack of initiative or apathy, which can be confused with depression.

Sudden onset, fluctuating evolution, focal neurological symptoms and the existence of vascular risk factors are key to differentiate between this type of dementia and degenerative dementia. The most important sign is high blood pressure, but we shouldn’t overlook diabetes mellitus, smoking and obesity. This type of dementia is easier to develop over the age of 70.

 

2. Lewy Body Dementia 

Lewy body dementia is a primary neurodegenerative dementia, the second more prevalent after Alzheimer’s disease. Its main characteristic is a build-up of unusual structures called Lewy bodies in some regions of the brain. The symptoms of this disease are memory loss, behavior changes, visual hallucinations, tremors and rigid muscles.

It’s difficult to diagnose this dementia because of its similarity with Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.

The age of onset is between 50 and 85 years old. Its origin is unknown. There is still no cure and its treatments on a pharmacological level are focused on the improvement of symptoms and, on a non-pharmacological level, they’re focused on delaying the disease's progression, stimulate and improve the quality of life of the affected person. (NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke)

 

3. Frontotemporal dementia 

Frontotemporal dementia is defined as a neurodegenerative disease, characterized by a gradual personality and behavior change and/or an early progressive language alteration, in which memory and visuospatial abilities are relatively preserved in early stages. It’s considered the second cause of dementia more common in people under the age of 65 after Alzheimer’s.

Its origin is unknown. There is still no cure and its treatments on a pharmacological level are focused on the improvement of symptoms and, on a non-pharmacological level, they’re focused on delaying the disease's progression, stimulate and improve the quality of life of the affected person. (NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke)

 

4. Huntingston's disease 

The first person to describe this disease was George Huntington in 1872. It was known as Huntington's chorea for a long time because one of its main clinical characteristics is involuntary movement (choreoathetosis). This is an inherited disease and causes deterioration in some nerve cells. Earliest symptoms of this disease include uncontrolled movements, clumsiness, balance problems, attention problems and memory impairment.

People affected by this disease are born with the gene but symptoms start showing at ages 30 and 40. There is still no cure and its treatments on a pharmacological level are focused on the improvement of symptoms and, on a non-pharmacological level, they’re focused on delaying the disease's progression, stimulate and improve the quality of life of the affected person.

 

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