Dementia is a term used to cover a group of diseases that cause decline in cognitive function. There are several subtypes of dementia, each with its own unique symptoms and underlying causes.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common and well-known disease that causes dementia, accounting for 60-70% of all dementia cases. Alzheimer’s disease is characterised by amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain, resulting in brain cell death.
Vascular dementia is caused by reduced blood supply to the brain, often as a result of a stroke and can have a sudden onset.
Lewy body dementia is named for the build-up of abnormal proteins in the brain called Lewy bodies. Symptoms can include hallucinations and sleep disturbances.
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) specifically affects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain resulting in changes in behaviour, and a deterioration in language and social skills. FTD is more common in people under the age of 65.
Mixed dementia is characterised by the presence of more than one type of dementia, which can be more challenging to diagnose and manage.
There is still much to learn about the causes, progression and treatment of all dementia subtypes, but particularly the rarer subtypes where there is less research and resources. As awareness of dementia increases more research will be conducted into these subtypes which may lead to new insights and treatment options.
You can read more about the different types of dementia here.
Breakdown of dementia by disease type
Estimate extrapolated from Carter (2022) Prevalence of all cause young onset dementia and time lived with dementia: analysis of primary care health records and Dementia population estimates in Luengo-Fernandez, R. & Landeiro, F. (in preparation). The Economic Burden of Dementia in the UK.