Types of Dementia

Dementia can be caused by nearly 40 different diseases and conditions. The Encyclopedia of Mind Disorders lists various types of dementia:

  • Primary dementias are characterized by damage to or wasting away of the brain tissue itself. They include Alzheimer’s disease (AD), frontal lobe dementia (FLD), and Pick’s disease. FLD is dementia caused by a disorder (usually genetic) that affects the front portion of the brain, and Pick’s disease is a rare type of primary dementia that is characterized by a progressive loss of social skills, language, and memory, leading to personality changes and sometimes loss of moral judgment.

  • Multi-infarct dementia (MID) or vascular dementia is caused by blood clots in the small blood vessels of the brain. When the clots cut off the blood supply to the brain tissue, the brain cells are damaged and may die.

  • Lewy body dementia. Lewy bodies are areas of injury found on damaged nerve cells in certain parts of the brain. They are associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, but researchers do not yet know whether dementia with Lewy bodies is a distinct typeof dementia or a variation of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.

  • Dementia related to alcoholism or exposure to heavy metals.

  • Dementia related to infectious diseases. These infections may be caused by HIV, viral encephalitis, Lyme disease, syphilis, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, etc.

  • Dementia related to abnormalities in the structure of the brain. These may include a buildup of spinal fluid in the brain, tumors, or blood collecting beneath the membrane that covers the brain.

Delirium, or temporary states of confusion
Another condition, called “delirium,” is a temporary state of confusion. It is common for an older adult in an unfamiliar situation to exhibit what appears to be dementia but gradually clears after a short period of time. Delirium may also be associated with depression, low levels of thyroid hormone, or niacin or vitamin B12 deficiency, and is often remedied with medical treatment.

The rise in using the term Alzheimer’s to include any type of dementia has grown over the years, largely due to the association that those with dementia are “demented,” a word with historically negative connotations.

Education on issues like Alzheimer’s is just one small way in which senior care coordinators at Always Best Care Senior Services help many communities throughout the country.