Dementia: forms of a disease

Dementia, wrongly equated with Alzheimer’s by the general public, is a common brain disease worldwide in which nerve cells are damaged to the point of death. Despite feverish research, a panacea does not yet exist. However, the various forms of dementia can at least be slowed down in their progress with different procedures. Four types of dementia are the most common manifestations.

Age-related disease dementia

Dementia is one of the most common diseases in old age and is accompanied by a wide variety of symptoms. This is mainly due to the different forms of dementia. Because unlike the general public often equal, a diagnosis of dementia does not mean Alzheimer’s. Character changes, physical ailments, forgetfulness, disorientation, speech disorders, loss of mental abilities and complete extinction of personality can be the consequences of the various forms.

Dementia is a widespread disease. Around 45 million people worldwide suffer from the disease, and the trend is rising. Every year there are around 300,000 new cases. In Germany alone, there are about 1.6 million people affected. The disease damages the brain, blocks neuronal connections and causes brain cells to die. By no means all causes of the disease have been researched so far and a cure is also not available. However, the various forms and clinical pictures of dementia can now be slowed down with appropriate medication.

The four most common forms of dementia

The disease dementia is basically divided by the physicians into two categories:

  • Primary dementia
  • Secondary dementia

The most significant distinguishing feature between the two categories is the trigger of the disease. Primary dementia refers to a process in which the cells die directly in the brain without having a chance of recovery. These brain cells are irrevocably lost. However, the speed of the course of the disease can be slowed down by those affected with the appropriate medications. About 90 percent of dementias can be attributed to primary dementia.

In the remaining ten percent who have secondary dementia, dementia results from another underlying disease. This means that, for example, a tumor in the brain can cause secondary dementia. Alcohol or drug dependence can also lead to the disease of the second form of dementia. Likewise, a brain injury can be the cause. However, the chances of recovery in secondary dementia are significantly more positive with timely and correct treatment than with primary dementia.

In addition to the two categories into which dementia is divided, there are four different forms of dementia that occur most frequently:

    • Alzheimer’s – probably the best-known form of dementia Alzheimer’s is probably known to pretty much everyone. Be it through personal, direct experience through affected relatives or through the media, dementia is quickly linked directly to Alzheimer’s. This is partly due to the fact that more than 60 percent of dementias worldwide can be traced back to Alzheimer’s. Although there are also cases in which younger people suffer from Alzheimer’s, those affected are usually over 65 years old. Alzheimer’s is a primary dementia.
      Protein cells, so-called beta-amyloid proteins, are deposited in the nerves of the brain, causing them to die. In addition, the tau proteins are affected by malformations. The tau proteins are responsible for the stable structure of the brain in a healthy person. In people with Alzheimer’s disease, these tau proteins can no longer guarantee stability, causing brain cells to die as well.
      The consequences of the disease in the early and middle stages are deficits in learning, memory and short-term memory. Long-term memory and typical daily routines that have been used for years are initially not restricted in most sufferers. At an advanced stage, human behavior patterns decrease and personality changes may appear. In some cases, close people are no longer recognized and old-fashioned skills are forgotten. So far, the dementia form Alzheimer’s is incurable.
    • Vascular dementia – too little oxygen for the brain
      Vascular dementia is caused by impaired blood flow to the brain. Due to the lack of blood circulation, the brain suffers a lack of oxygen and nutrients, which damages the nerve cells and can lead to the death of the cells. Vascular dementia also belongs to primary dementia and, together with Lewy body dementia, is the second most common form after Alzheimer’s disease.
      Causes and triggers for vascular dementia can be, for example, a stroke, high blood pressure or calcified arteries. The consequences often begin with incontinence or unsteady walking as a result of minor strokes.
  • Lewy body dementia – limited exchange of information between nerve cells
    Named after the German neurologist Friedrich H. Lewy, who discovered the activities of the so-called Lewy bodies. These refer to proteins that restrict the exchange of information between nerve cells. As a result, the brain cells die.
    As a result, sufferers begin to suffer from hallucinations, muscle tremors, and an unstable posture, with the first signs usually being visual and auditory hallucinations. The state of health also fluctuates quite strongly during the disease. Lewy body dementia also belongs to the primary category and is the second most common form of dementia next to vascular dementia.
  • Frontotemporal dementia – personality change in the frontal and temporal lobe
    Frontotemporal dementia, also called Pick’s disease, is a neurodegenerative disease and a special form of dementia. It also belongs to the primary dementia, but affects only about three to six percent of dementia patients. In this form, the “Pick’s bodies”, a protein group, nest in the area of the frontal and temporal lobes and cause the death of the nerve cells.
    The course of the disease is usually quite slow, but the consequences are all the more severe. Because those affected do not suffer from memory loss, but from a progressive personality change, since the frontal and temporal lobes are responsible for social behavior and emotions. Frontotemporal dementia causes behavioural problems and personality changes, speech and memory disorders as well as the loss of trained rules of conduct.

Read more: