Dementia is a term that represents a large number of neurological disorders. The major symptom they all have in common is a steady decline in brain function. Though there are over 100 diseases thought to either cause or contribute to dementia, three are considered among the most common. Since seniors make up the largest portion of dementia diagnosis, having knowledge of the disease can help those caregivers providing at home care.
Alzheimer’s disease is by far the most common form of dementia. To put that in perspective, Alzheimer’s makes up an estimated 50 to 70 percent of all dementias combined, affecting one in four people over 85. Increasing age is the biggest risk factor for Alzheimer’s. When diagnosed with this form of dementia, seniors can experience impaired memory, clouded thinking and violent mood swings.
There are two types of Alzheimer’s disease: sporadic or familial.
- Sporadic Alzheimer’s disease: This type of dementia is the most common form of Alzheimer’s disease. It can affect adults of any age, but normally presents after the age of 65 and eventually requires some form of eldercare.
- Familial Alzheimer’s disease: This form of dementia is rare and genetic. The disease itself if caused by an abnormal mutation in one of several genes. Once a mutated gene is detected, the patient will develop Alzheimer’s disease at some point, usually between the ages of 40 and 50.
The second most commonly diagnosed form of dementia is vascular. The broad term refers to problems with blood circulation to and from the brain. It is possible for a senior to have both multi-infarct dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, making it extremely difficult for a doctor to diagnose either.
There are a number of different types of vascular dementia, but the most common type is known as multi-infarct dementia. Caused by a series of small strokes, also known as mini-strokes or Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIA), multi-infarct dementia damages or destroys brain tissue. Multi-infarct dementia usually affects older adults between the ages of 60 and 75, with men being at a slightly higher risk for developing the disease.
Lewy Body Disease
The third most common form of dementia is known as Lewy body disease. The condition is caused by degeneration and death of vital nerve cells within the brain. Abnormal spherical structures, referred to as “Lewy bodies,” develop inside the brain’s nerve cells and slowly contribute to their death. There is no known cause of Lewy body disease, nor are there any known risk factors.
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