Dementia Types, Signs & Symptoms

Although more than 5.3 million Americans are afflicted with some form of dementia, the nature of the condition is not well-known among the general populace. For example, dementia is not a disease, but rather a series of symptoms that have the effect of chronically disrupting a person’s mental processes. Also, dementia is often incorrectly referred to as an illness that is an inevitable part of the aging process. In reality, the disorder can strike individuals of any age and can be caused by traumatic brain injury, degenerative neurological disease or fluid buildup in the cranium.

In order to address these common misconceptions here’s a closer look at the types of dementia, as well as their differing symptoms.

Types of Dementia and Their Different Symptoms

  • Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type dementia and represents 60 to 80 percent of all dementia diagnoses. Its most common symptoms are impaired short-term and long-term memory, disorientation, difficulty communicating and greatly diminished cognitive process that makes it hard for sufferers to perform even the simplest tasks.
  • Vascular dementia is the second most common type of the disorder and is primarily characterized by impairing an individual’s ability to plan and make logical judgments.
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies has symptoms that are similar to Alzheimer’s, but it also causes the afflicted to experience chronic insomnia and vivid hallucinations.
  • Mixed dementia is a version of the disorder that presents with symptoms belonging to more than one type of dementia.
  • Although Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative illness that attacks the central nervous system, patients afflicted with it are commonly afflicted with dementia in its more advanced stages.
  • Frontotemporal dementia typically manifests itself in the form of aphasia and sudden changes in personality and behavior.
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is a rare and fatal form of dementia that impairs memory, diminishes coordination and causes sudden behavioral changes.
  • Normal pressure hydrocephalus is the medical term for a buildup of fluid in the in the brain. It’s signature symptoms are memory loss, impaired motor skills and an inability to maintain control of the bladder. Dementia caused by normal pressure hydrocephalus can be corrected by draining the excess fluid.
  • Huntington’s Disease is a genetic disorder that presents with progressively worsening symptoms like involuntary movements, depression and a significant decline in cognitive function.
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome is the result of severe vitamin B1 deficiency and is typically the result of alcohol abuse. It is most commonly characterized by inducing severe memory loss that does not affect any other mental processes.
  • One of the most pernicious symptoms of a mild traumatic brain injury, which is commonly referred to as a concussion, is that it can induce symptoms of dementia such as disorientation impaired cognitive function days or even weeks after it is incurred.

While only a qualified medical professional can diagnose the disorder, there are certain early signs to be aware of that might indicate one of your family members, friends or coworkers may be afflicted with dementia.

  • Chronic intermittent memory loss. If someone you know has regular, but not continuous problems recalling new information or has taken to using excessive amounts of reminder notes, they may be struggling with memory loss.
  • Diminished ability to problem solve or complete simple tasks. If one of your relatives begins to forget to pay their utility bills or rent, or if they have difficulty driving to their favorite restaurant or following the progression of a board game, it might be a sign of cognitive impairment.
  • Disorientation/confusion. In many cases, the onset of dementia is preceded by occasional instances of a person being unable to remember what day of the week or how they came to arrive in a certain place.
  • Vision problems. Vision problems like being unable to differentiate colors or judge distance can be an early indicator of dementia.
  • This symptom commonly manifests itself as the inability to recall a specific word or express a simple concept verbally.
  • Losing things. This refers to a situation wherein a loved one would place an item in an unusual place and would later be unable to recall its location.
  • Poor judgment. The inability to exercise appropriate judgment may manifest in small ways, such as dressing inappropriately for formal occasions or handing over significant amounts of money to telemarketers.
  • Social withdrawal. As a result of an impaired memory and the embarrassment they feel regarding their condition, it’s common for dementia sufferers to pull away from friends and family members.
  • Abrupt personality changes. If a loved one begins suddenly exhibiting unusual behavior such as intense irritability, suspicion or anxiousness without an apparent external cause, dementia may be at the root of the problem.

If you believe that you or someone you know might be afflicted with dementia, it’s imperative that you contact a qualified medical professional soon as possible in order to receive treatment. While the onset of dementia is obviously incredibly unnerving, it’s important to understand that help is available.