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A Mind Odyssey


Different kinds of dementia


Below are listed some noteworthy causes of dementia. Alzheimer's disease is the most common and is discussed on another webpage.

1. Aids

HIV has a direct effect on the brain. About 8-16% of AIDS victims develop a slow and progressive form of dementia.

It is usually in the later stages of the disease, although there may be some symptoms earlier on. Symptoms include confusion, difficulty concentrating, apathy, blunted emotions and withdrawal or loss of inhibitions. Patients, may maintain their personality until the end.

2. Alcohol dementia

NB. (Korsakoff's syndrome = Amnesic Syndrome is not a dementia.)

3. Binswanger's Disease

Binswanger's disease is a slowly evolving type of dementia, which occurs as a result of disease in the smaller blood vessels disease. Symptoms tend to include slowness, lethargy, difficulties walking, paralysis of the limbs and emotional instability.

4. Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD)

Patients suffer from the odd lapse of memory and mood swings and may be inclined to withdraw from social activities. This is followed by more significant memory problems, difficulties with conversation and a loss of stability. As the disease progresses, they develop jerky, uncontrollable movements, stiffness of the limbs and become incontinent. CJD generally progresses rapidly in that most patients die within about six months, although with some people (about 10%), the disease can last from 2 to 5 years.

5. Dementia of the Lewy body type

Linked to Parkinson's disease, but also affects about a fifth to a quarter of people diagnosed as having Alzheimer's disease. The disease is characterised by the presence of Lewy bodies (tiny spherical structures containing proteins) which can be found in the nerve cells of the brain at post-mortem. Patients suffer from movement disorders, tremors, depression, delusions and confusion, although their condition can fluctuate, even within the same day. It has also been found that people with diffuse Lewy body disease are more sensitive to neuroleptic medication.

Down's Syndrome patients can develop Alzheimer's disease

6. Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker Syndrome

This disease is usually inherited. Symptoms include a loss of balance and poor muscle co-ordination with dementia occurring in the later stages.

7. Huntington's Disease (chorea)

Described in 1872 by George Hungtington, causes mental and physical deterioration. It usually starts between the ages of 30 and 50 and tends to last from 10 to 25 years. In is an inherited disease which is transmitted by a single dominant gene.  Symptoms frequently include forgetfulness, slight involuntary movements, clumsiness, irrational behaviour and depression. In addition to this, patients tend to become moody, irritable, quarrelsome, very sensitive and may develop delusions of persecution. Physical symptoms include a characteristic jerking and abrupt movements which usually start in the hands, face and shoulders.

8. Multi-Infarct Dementia (MID)

This form of dementia is caused by a series of small strokes which cut off the blood supply to certain areas of the brain causing brain cells to die. The areas of the brain mainly affected are those which control memory, speech, language and learning. Although symptoms vary considerably from person to person and over time, speech problems, mood swings, epileptic fits and partial or total paralysis of a limb are fairly common. The symptoms also vary over time in that after the initial deterioration due to the stroke, the patient's condition may seem to stabilise. However, unfortunately these small improvements do not last long.

9. Parkinson's Disease

Loss of a high percentage of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the substantia nigra, which helps to control movement. Between twenty to thirty percent of sufferers develop dementia in the late stages of the disease. Those who do not, nevertheless, have difficulty concentrating or think more slowly.

10. Pick's Disease / Frontal lobe dementia / Fronto-temporal degeneration

Frontal lobe dementia is the term used to describe a number of forms of dementia which involve damage to the brain cells mainly in the frontal lobe of the brain. Pick's disease is one such form. As damage occurs in the part of the brain which controls behaviour, this form of dementia is often marked by noticeable changes in the personality of the person affected. The person may be rude, arrogant, act inappropriately and basically fail to respect social conventions. The early stage tends to be marked by a lack of initiative and failing memory for recent events. Spatial disorientation also occurs quite early on. In the later stages, patients are bed-ridden. Pick's Disease has an average age of onset between 52 and 57 years and an average duration of 6 to 7 years.