Dementia: Not just caused by Alzheimer’s disease

Dementia: Not just caused by Alzheimer’s disease

Memory loss, confusion, difficulty communicating, compulsive behaviors and depression are just a few common symptoms seen in patients with dementia. Although Alzheimer’s disease is considered the No. 1 cause for dementia affecting 5.4 million people in the United States, according to a 2011 Alzheimer’s Association study, many other types of dementia exist and are commonly forgotten or do not receive as much press as Alzheimer’s.

The most common types of dementia

Different dementia types share many similar signs and symptoms, but there are differentiating factors between the four most common types:

  • Alzheimer’s dementia
  • vascular dementia
  • Lewy body dementia
  • frontotemporal dementia

The general public should become educated on all dementia types so people know when to seek help from a health professional.

Complications and risk factors

People with dementia can suffer from complications such as falls, automobile accidents, taking the incorrect medication due to forgetfulness or even getting lost by wandering off.

Risk factors for dementia include increasing age, family history, cardiovascular comorbidities and lower educational level. The greatest risk factor is increasing age.

According to an article titled “Evaluation of Suspected Dementia,” published in the Oct. 15, 2011, issue of American Family Physician: “After 65 years of age, the lifetime risk of developing dementia is approximately 17 to 20 percent; 70 percent of patients with dementia have Alzheimer’s disease, 17 percent have vascular dementia, and 13 percent have a combination of dementia with Lewy bodies, Parkinson’s-related dementia, alcoholic dementia, or frontal lobe dementia.”

Recognize the signs

Dementia can be diagnosed if cognitive or behavioral symptoms interfere with a person’s ability to function at work or socially. It is equally important for family members and health care providers to recognize the signs of dementia and differentiate between the types, as each type has its own underlying cause and, therefore, treatment medications may differ. In brief, here are the characteristics of each of the most common dementia types:

  • Vascular dementia presents similar to Alzheimer’s dementia, but the underlying cause is due to severe cardiovascular causes that affect the brain and could ultimately cause a stroke
  • Lewy body dementia is characterized by Parkinson’s features as well as dementia symptoms
  • Frontotemporal dementia is characterized by labile inappropriate personality changes in addition to cognitive deficits

If someone you know shows signs or symptoms of depression, he or she may have an underlying dementia. For more information, call the Dual Diagnosis Helpline at 855-981-6047.

Look for more blogs in this series, which will explore all of these dementia types.