Many people assume that only older people get dementia however this is not the case. Dementia can affect people of all ages and in many different ways.
Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases or a series of strokes. Dementia is progressive, which means that it is not going to get better as the structure and chemistry of the brain become increasingly damaged over time. The person's ability to remember, understand, communicate and reason gradually declines.
The way people are affected depends on many factors, including their physical make-up, emotional resilience and the support they receive.
Careline Lifestyles is able to support people who have been diagnosed with dementia, both in the early and later stages, when the condition may be more complex and the person has other associated health needs.
Types of dementia
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. It’s found in more than half of people diagnosed with the illness. With Alzheimer’s, individual brain cells become damaged. The numbers gradually increase over time so the brain starts to function less and less well.
It starts slowly, and the decline can happen over a number of years. It usually affects short–term memory first. Gradually, other everyday tasks become more and more difficult.
Vascular dementia (including multi-infarct dementia) is the second most common type of dementia. In both cases, the blood supply to the brain is damaged or cut off. As a result, some brain cells die. This can happen either suddenly, following a stroke, or more gradually after a series of ‘mini–strokes’ or ‘infarcts’. These mini–strokes can be so small that they go unnoticed to begin with. Then the person might have a sudden change but remain stable until the next ‘mini–stroke’. With vascular dementia, people start to forget things and find day–to–day life harder to cope with.
Fronto–temporal dementia (including Pick’s disease) damages the front and side parts of the brain. This means people are likely to have behavioural issues and mood changes and may find it difficult to judge situations or plan ahead. They may do things at the wrong time or in the wrong place. Problems with memory are not as common, or occur later. Younger people, usually between the ages of 45 - 65, are most likely to be affected.
Lewy body dementia affects around 10 percent of people with dementia. It’s caused by tiny, round deposits (Lewy bodies) that damage the brain tissue. This causes the brain to function less well in sending and receiving messages. The effects can be patchy and sporadic, so someone with this type of dementia can vary quite a lot day to day. As well as affecting memory, people can have hallucinations, physical stiffness, weaknesses in their arms and legs, and tremors. It is also related to Parkinson’s disease, so some people with Parkinson’s disease may develop this type of dementia, but people with Lewy body dementia don’t necessarily get symptoms of Parkinson’s.
Korsakoff’s syndrome is a brain disorder usually associated with heavy alcohol consumption over a long period. Although Korsakoff's syndrome is not strictly speaking a dementia, people with the condition experience loss of short-term memory.
Korsakoff's syndrome is caused by lack of vitamin B1 (thiamine), which affects the brain and nervous system. People who drink excessive amounts of alcohol are often thiamine deficient due to poor diet, inflammation of the stomach lining, frequent vomiting which makes it difficult for the body to absorb the key vitamins it receives. Alcohol also makes it harder for the liver to store vitamins.
Other conditions or illnesses that can cause dementia include:
- Huntingdon’s disease
- Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease
- HIV or AIDS
- head injuries
- Down’s syndrome
Further information on the different types of dementia can be found on the Alzheimer’s Society website: www.alzheimers.org.uk