Understanding the Different Types of Dementia

Learn more about and be able to distinguish between the different types of dementia with the help of this educational article from Senior Lifestyle.

Cortical Dementia

Alzheimer’s disease, the most common of all types of dementia, accounts for between 60 and 80 percent of all cases of dementia and is a cortical dementia. Cortical dementia is the name given to the types of dementia caused by disorders that affect the brain’s cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex is the brain’s outermost layer, which is involved in a range of important functions, including memory, language, abstraction, creativity, judgment, emotion, and attention.
Progressive in nature, Alzheimer’s disease actually begins causing changes to the brain long before the first outward symptoms like memory loss begin to show themselves, and it worsens over time. It is believed that this disease is responsible for an increase in the number of lesions in the brain that cause the problems associated with Alzheimer’s like memory loss and changes in personality. As of yet, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but there are drug therapies that may help slow the progression of the disease, as well as lifestyle changes that can improve the quality of life for victims of Alzheimer’s and their loved ones. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 90 percent of what we know about Alzheimer’s has been discovered in the last 15 years.

Subcortical Dementia

These types of dementia typically manifest themselves without the memory and language issues present in those with Alzheimer’s disease. Subcortical dementias are the different types of dementia caused by disorders affecting a part of the brain beneath the cerebral cortex. Often, those suffering from a subcortical dementia display difficulties with attention and concentration, and tend to have severe trouble with motor function. This type of dementia can be caused by disorders like Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and vascular dementia.

Vascular dementia is the second most common cause of dementia. Though some experts believe it is, like Alzheimer’s disease, underdiagnosed, it still accounts for 20 to 30 percent of dementia cases. Vascular dementia is a decrease in mental faculties that is caused by blocked or reduced blood flow to the brain. This blockage or reduction deprives brain cells of vital oxygen and nutrients they need to function, and are typically caused by a stroke or several small strokes.
Many of those who suffer from Parkinson’s disease will eventually develop dementia. As the disease progresses, it often begins to affect areas of the brain that function in cognition, language, and memory. An estimated 50 to 80 percent of those with Parkinson’s disease will experience dementia. The average time from the onset of Parkinson’s to dementia is about 10 years.

Treatment and Prevention

Among the different types of dementias, some are treatable. Those types of dementia that are brought on alcohol or drug abuse, caused by tumors, blood clots, hydrocephalus, and metabolic disorders are often remediable. However, Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease are not correctable. If you or a loved one exhibits early signs of dementia, talk to a doctor today. While many forms of dementia cannot be treated, there are options that can improve the quality of life for those suffering from dementia.

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