What is the difference between Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias?
Alzheimer’s dementia: the most common form of dementia disease
Dementia is a generic term for various neurodegenerative disease patterns in which mental capacity is impaired. Alzheimer’s dementia is the most common form of dementia, but there are also other forms that differ in symptoms and progression. Today, there are more than 100 different types of dementia, including Huntington’s disease, dementia associated with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and alcohol-associated dementia. In the following, we give a brief overview of the most common forms of dementia after Alzheimer’s dementia.
Vascular dementia results from circulatory problems in the brain
Vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia, accounting for around 15 percent of dementia diagnoses. It results from circulatory problems in the brain caused by strokes, high blood pressure or narrowing of the blood vessels. The symptoms can be similar to those of Alzheimer’s dementia, but specific signs such as paralysis and speech disorders can also occur. The course can vary and depends on the severity of the circulatory disorders.
Lewy body dementia: Non-degradable protein remnants in the cerebral cortex.
Lewy body dementia, also called Lewy body dementia, affects about 5 percent of dementia sufferers and is caused by the eponymous Lewy bodies in the nerve cells of the cerebral cortex. Named after the German neurologist Friedrich Lewy, these Lewy bodies are round-shaped protein deposits of alpha-synuclein that also impair the function of the nerve cells. These inclusions can lead to symptoms such as memory disorders, hallucinations and movement disorders. The course of Lewy body dementia is often fluctuating and symptoms can change throughout the day.
Frontotemporal dementia affects emotional life and social behaviour
Frontotemporal dementia is a form of dementia in which the nerve cells in the frontal and temporal regions of the brain are damaged. These areas are mainly where emotions and social behaviour are organised and also controlled. The symptoms can vary depending on the region affected, but there are often marked changes in behaviour and personality. Frontotemporal dementia often occurs in younger people and the course is often faster than in other forms of dementia.
Parkinson’s dementia is often associated with Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s dementia is caused by a slowly progressive destruction of nerve cells in the brain that are responsible for the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This destruction leads to characteristic symptoms such as muscle stiffness, tremors and slowing of movement, which are typical of Parkinson’s disease. In Parkinson’s dementia, cognitive impairments occur in addition to the Parkinson’s symptoms, such as problems with memory, attention, thinking and language comprehension. However, Parkinson’s disease and Parkinson’s dementia have different causes and symptoms, although they often occur together. While Parkinson’s disease is caused by a gradual destruction of dopamine-producing nerve cells, Parkinson’s dementia is caused by the accumulation of abnormal proteins in the brain that lead to damage of the nerve cells. It is important to emphasise that Parkinson’s dementia does not occur in all Parkinson’s patients, nor are all cases of dementia in Parkinson’s patients due to Parkinson’s dementia.
For all dementias, accurate and early diagnosis is critical
Accurate diagnosis at the earliest possible stage is crucial for the treatment of all dementias. A correct diagnosis can help identify the cause of the dementia and tailor treatment to the specific needs of the patient. Early diagnosis can also help give patients and their families time to plan support measures and prepare for the changes that come with the disease.