What is dementia?
Dementia is the name for a set of symptoms that includes memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language. Dementia develops when the brain is damaged by diseases, including:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Vascular dementia
- Frontotemporal dementia
- Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB)
People with dementia can lose interest in things that they usually enjoy, they might have problems controlling their emotions, could find social situations difficult, and their personality can change.
Symptoms of dementia may include problems with:
- Memory loss
- Thinking speed
- Mental sharpness and quickness
- Difficulties carrying out daily activities
- Empathy (understanding and compassion)
- Seeing or hearing things that other people do not (hallucinations)
As dementia affects a person’s mental abilities, they may find planning and organising difficult, so they usually need help from friends or relatives, including help with decision making.
The Alzheimer’s Society states there are around 850,000 people in the UK with dementia.
The condition affects 1 in 6 people over the age of 80, and one in 14 people over 65 will develop dementia.
It is estimated that by 2025, the number of people with dementia in the UK will have increased to around 1 million. The number of people with dementia is increasing because people are living longer.
There are many different causes of dementia. People often get confused about the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia in the UK. The exact cause is not yet fully understood, but things thought to increase your risk of developing the condition include:
- Increasing age
- A family history of the condition
- Untreated depression, although depression can also be one of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease
- Lifestyle factors and conditions associated with cardiovascular disease
Vascular dementia is caused by reduced blood supply to the brain due to diseased blood vessels, and is the second most common type of dementia, affecting around 150,000 people in the UK.
This form of dementia tends to get worse over time, although it can sometimes be possible to slow it down.Vascular dementia – Alzheimer’s Society
Frontotemporal dementia is an uncommon type of dementia that causes problems with behaviour and language.
This form of dementia affects the front and sides of the brain (the frontal and temporal lobes), and tends to develop slowly and get gradually worse over several years.Frontotemporal dementia – Alzheimer’s Society
Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB)
Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), also known as Lewy body dementia, is one of the most common types of dementia, and shares symptoms with both Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Lewy bodies, named after the German doctor who first identified them, are tiny deposits of a protein (alpha-synuclein) that appear in nerve cells in the brain. It’s as yet unknown why Lewy bodies appear, or exactly how they contribute to dementia.Dementia with Lewy bodies – Alzheimer’s Society