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Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

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Types of Dementia

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If someone you love gets diagnosed with dementia, it means he has a brain condition that causes problems with his thinking and memory.

Dementia itself is not a disease. It relates to a number of common symptoms.

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Is It Alzheimer’s or Normal Aging?

As you get older, chances are you’ll sometimes forget a word, where you left your car keys, or the name of a neighbor you bumped into at the market. These small memory lapses happen. They're a normal part of aging -- just like creaky knees, wrinkled skin, or blurry vision. It can help to: Write yourself notes. Place your keys in the same place each day. Play word games or do crossword puzzles. Because loss of memory is also a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease, you might worry that these...

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It will get worse over time. But medications might slow that decline and help with symptoms, such as behavior changes.

There are many different types of dementia. Your loved one's treatments will depend on the type he has.

Alzheimer's Disease

Experts think between 60% to 80% of people with dementia have this disease. More than 5 million Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. It's what most people think of when they hear "dementia."

If someone you know has Alzheimer's, you'll notice symptoms such as memory loss and trouble planning and doing familiar tasks.

The symptoms are mild at first but get worse over a number of years. Your friend or relative might:

  • Be confused about where he is or what day or year it is
  • Have problems speaking or writing
  • Lose things and be unable to backtrack to find them
  • Show poor judgment
  • Have mood and personality changes

Vascular Dementia

If a relative or friend of yours gets this type of dementia, it's usually because he's had a major stroke, or one or more "silent" strokes, which can happen without him realizing it.

The symptoms depend on which part of his brain was affected by the stroke.

While Alzheimer's usually begins with memory problems, vascular dementia more often begins with poor judgment or trouble planning, organizing, and making decisions.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Memory problems that disrupt your loved one's daily life
  • Trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Problems recognizing sights and sounds that used to be familiar
  • Being confused or agitated
  • Changes in personality and mood
  • Problems walking and having frequent falls

Dementia With Lewy Bodies (DLB)

Lewy bodies are microscopic deposits of a protein that form in some people's brains. They're named after the scientist who discovered them.

If someone you know gets DLB, it's because these deposits have formed in the part of the brain called the cortex.

The symptoms include:

  • Problems thinking clearly, making decisions, or paying attention
  • Memory trouble
  • Seeing things that aren't there, known as visual hallucinations
  • Unusual sleepiness during the day
  • Periods of "blanking out" or staring
  • Problems with movement, including trembling, slowness, and trouble walking
  • Dreams where you act out physically, including, talking, walking, and kicking
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