Various disorders and factors contribute to the development of dementia. Neurodegenerative disorders result in a progressive and irreversible loss of neurons and brain functioning. Currently, there are no cures for these diseases.
The five most common forms of dementia are:
Alzheimer’s disease, the most common dementia diagnosis among older adults. It is caused by changes in the brain, including abnormal buildups of proteins, known as amyloid plaques and tau tangles.
Frontotemporal dementia, a rare form of dementia that tends to occur in people younger than 60. It is associated with abnormal amounts or forms of the proteins tau and TDP-43.
Lewy body dementia, a form of dementia caused by abnormal deposits of the protein alpha-synuclein, called Lewy bodies.
Vascular dementia, a form of dementia caused by conditions that damage blood vessels in the brain or interrupt the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.
Mixed dementia, a combination of two or more types of dementia.
What is mixed dementia?
It is common for people with dementia to have more than one form of dementia. For example, many people with dementia have both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.
Researchers who have conducted autopsy studies have looked at the brains of people who had dementia, and have suggested that most people age 80 and older probably have mixed dementia caused by a combination of brain changes related to Alzheimer’s disease, vascular disease-related processes, or another condition that involves the loss of nerve cell function or structure and nerve cell death (called neurodegeneration).
Scientists are investigating how the underlying disease processes in mixed dementia start and influence each other.
Further knowledge gains in this area will help researchers better understand these conditions and develop more personalized prevention and treatment strategies.
Other conditions that cause dementia-like symptoms can be halted or even reversed with treatment.
For example, normal pressure hydrocephalus, an abnormal buildup of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain, often resolves with treatment.
In addition, medical conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression, and delirium can cause serious memory problems that resemble dementia, as can side effects of certain medicines.
Researchers have also identified many other conditions that can cause dementia or dementia-like symptoms.
These conditions include:
Argyrophilic grain disease, a common, late-onset degenerative disease
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare brain disorder
Huntington’s disease, an inherited, progressive brain disease
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, caused by repeated traumatic brain injury
HIV-associated dementia, a rare disease that occurs when the HIV virus spreads to the brain
The overlap in symptoms of various dementias can make it difficult to get an accurate diagnosis. But a proper diagnosis is important to get the best treatment.
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