Dementia is a degenerative neurological disease which leads to mental impairment affecting the brain to function. Patients who suffer from dementia gradually lose their ability to think, remember, evaluate, decide or communicate. The most common type of dementia that you may have heard of is Alzheimer’s disease; however there are many more types. These different types are caused by different diseases and each type has different set of symptoms and affects. Let’s take a look at each below:
Dementia, in general, is divided into two types: Cortical and Subcortical dementia
As the name says, cortical dementia refers to all those diseases that impact the cerebral cortex, which is the outer layer of the brain. Cortical Dementia leads to memory loss and speech difficulty.
This type of dementia is caused by affecting the other parts of the brain, below the cerebral cortex. Unlike Cortical Dementia, Subcortical Dementia doesn’t damage the cognitive skills much as it damages the motor skills of the diagnosed patient.
Within cortical and subcortical dementia, each type has different diseases, which are explained below:
1. Alzheimer’s disease
One of the most common and progressive forms of Dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. As a cortical type, Alzheimer’s disturbs the cognitive side of the human being, affecting their ability to think, remember and behave normally. Alzheimer’s is mostly diagnosed after the age of 65 and often ignored as ageing. There are so far no medications to cure Alzheimer’s but there are treatments that can slow down the progression.
Alzheimer’s is an ongoing disease, which means there is no stopping and the damage to brain cells slowly disturbs the whole life, leading towards the decline in functionality. The symptoms and growth of this disease vary person to person and the root cause of this disease is yet to be known but Alzheimer’s can touch can anyone.
2. Vascular Dementia
Vascular Dementia or vascular cognitive impairment comes under the umbrella of subcortical dementia and is the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s. It occurs when there is a blockage in the brain or the blood and oxygen flow to the brain is low. This reduced blood flow is mostly due to the plaque that is accumulated in the arteries and taken into the brain. Patients diagnosed with Vascular Dementia lose their ability to think, decide, remember and reason. They are unable to focus and often remain confused & agitated.
3. Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease is a subcortical type progressive neurological disorder that affects the movement of the diagnosed patient. The disease damages a part of the brain called “substantia nigra.” When “substantia nigra” cells start deteriorating, the dopamine levels in the brain are lowered which is mainly responsible for the coordination and movement in the human body. Unfortunately, Parkinson’s is diagnosed much later when 60-80% reduction in dopamine levels has already taken place. A patient with Parkinson’s is said to have tremor in their finger/hand/foot, face uncontrollable movements, slow movement, limb stiffness, changes in voice, handwriting and also a hunched posture.
4. Lewy Body Dementia
Lewy body dementia (LBD) is a cortical dementia type disease that is caused when there are abnormal deposits of a protein called Lewy bodies or alpha-synuclein into the nerve cells of the brain. The deposition of Lewy Bodies stops sending chemical signals to the brain, resulting in memory loss, delayed communication, confused or mixed reactions etc. LBD usually affects both, the cognitive and motor skills of the patient, leading to depression, risk of injury, frustration and dementia.
5. Frontotemporal Dementia
In Frontotemporal Dementia, the temporal and the frontal lobes of the brain are damaged, affecting the thinking and behavior of the patient as well as their whole personality. Frontotemporal Dementia is a series of disorders; behavioral variant Frontotemporal dementia which directly affects the personality and behavior, the primary progressive aphasia which starts from speech difficulty and progressive non-fluent aphasia which disables the patient’s communication skills and memory. Frontotemporal dementia is diagnosed when the patient demonstrates irrational behavior. They start losing interest in activities, act inappropriately, and face difficulty in speaking, reading and writing.
There is no prevention or cure to any of the above types of Dementia and research is still going on to find out the root-cause that may help doctors and scientists determine a solution to this disease. However, the only way to lower the risk is to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Keep yourself educated and updated on what you eat, how you work and most importantly how your body functions. Be aware of the changes in your body and avoid smoking, alcohol etc. to extend your chances of healthy living.