It is estimated that over 850,000 people in the UK are currently living with dementia, with this figure expected to increase to over 1.1 million by 2025. It is also the only condition in the top ten causes of death in the UK that has no cure, but just what is dementia?
What is Dementia?
A common misconception is that dementia itself is in fact a disease. In fact the term ‘dementia’ is the name given to a number of different symptoms of various diseases. These symptoms can include things such as memory loss, a difficulty thinking, struggling to problem solve and can even affect a person’s language.
This is all dependant on the specific disease a person has, and as to what part of the brain is affected.
Edward Pinches of Alzheimer’s Research UK said:
“Dementia is the name given to a number of symptoms of a number of different diseases. Therefore, people can present a number of symptoms, depending on which disease they have and which part of their brain is affected.”
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting over 60% of those diagnosed. It is a progressive disease that destroys cells in the brain, eventually affecting things such as a person’s memory, intelligence and language.
I recently spent time with someone ‘Living With Alzheimer’s’ and witnessed some of these devastating effects first hand.
This is the second most common form of dementia, and it accounts for around 20% of those with dementia in the UK.
Vascular dementia is caused by a reduced blood flow to the brain, which then in turn kills the brain cells.
The symptoms of vascular dementia typically include a trouble to understand things, problems with concentration and a slowness of thought. It can also affect a person similarly to Alzheimer’s, causing memory or language issues but this isn’t as common.
Dementia With Lewy Bodies
Dementia with Lewy bodies is the third most common cause of dementia in the UK, and it’s caused by clusters of proteins forming inside brain cells. These clusters are known as Lewy bodies, and they can also be found in people living with Parkinson’s disease.
Although dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) shares some symptoms with Alzheimer’s such as problems with memory and understanding things it is still very different. Some of the most common symptoms for those affected with DLB are hallucinations and periods of confusion that come and go frequently.
Ashley Bayston, founder of the ‘Lewy Body Society’ said:
“What makes DLB different from Alzheimer’s and other dementia’s are hallucinations, which don’t occur in other dementias and fluctuations in consciousness.
“These are extremely dramatic, from lucidity to total confusion or a unique state of barely consciousness, totally unpredictable. There are also motor symptoms as well as cognitive ones.”
Frontotemporal dementia is a less common type of dementia, accounting for only 5% of people living with dementia in the UK, and affects the frontal and temporal lobes in the brain.
This cause of dementia most commonly affects a person’s personality and their behaviour, with someone with Frontotemporal dementia often acting inappropriately or impulsively for example. It can also cause problems for a person’s memory, however this typically only occurs later on.
Edward Pinches of Alzheimer’s Research UK said:
“Someone, with Frontotemporal dementia may display changes to their personality.”
Rarer Types Of Dementia
There are a variety of other causes of dementia and some of these include,
- Parkinson’s disease dementia, this occurs in up to 50% of people diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.
- Progressive supranuclear palsy. Although most with this condition would be classified as having cognitive issues rather than being diagnosed with dementia, a small proportion of people with Frontotemporal dementia can develop this as a result.
- Huntington’s disease. It is an inherited disease that is most known for causing problems with coordination, with someone affected having the chance to develop dementia at any point.
- Corticobasal degeneration dementia. This cause of dementia is a rare disease in which parts of the brain brain become damaged and start to shrink, most commonly causing problems with movement and memory.
- Multiple sclerosis. While this is most commonly associated with cognitive issues rather than dementia, memory issues can often become severe enough for someone with multiple sclerosis to be classed as having dementia.
These are not the only causes of dementia, there are also many others that affect smaller amounts of people across the UK.
If you, or someone you know are affected by any type of dementia please call the Dementia Helpline at 0800 888 6678. Or if you would like more information on the various types of dementia check out Alzheimer’s Research UK.