There are several causes of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause. Less known are vascular, frontotemporal dementia, and Dementia with Lewy-Bodies.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, more than 70% of dementia cases are Alzheimer’s disease. Plenty of research is being done into this disease. For now, we know, among other things, that Alzheimer’s disease is most likely caused by an accumulation of harmful proteins (Amyloid-beta and Tau) between (Amyloid-beta) and in (Tau) the nerve cells of the brain. These proteins are not broken down properly and impede the function of the nerve cells. The brain can no longer function properly, causing the nerve cells to die. That process is irreversible, as dead nerve cells never become healthy, working nerve cells again. Memory problems are often at the forefront of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Another form of dementia is vascular dementia. Vascular means “relating to the blood vessels”. Vascular dementia is caused by damage to the brain from problems with the blood vessels of the brain. For example, people who have had a cerebral infarction or cerebral hemorrhage can develop thinking disorders as a result of damage to the brain. But the damage to the small blood vessels of the brain, visible as lacunar infarcts or white matter abnormalities, can also be associated with thinking problems. In vascular dementia, slowness of thinking, speaking, and acting is often at the forefront.
Frontotemporal dementia is caused by damage to the frontal and/or temporal lobe of the brain. These areas of the brain are responsible for our decision-making and coordination, and for our emotional responses and language skills. People with frontotemporal dementia therefore mainly suffer from changes in behavior and personality and experience language disorders and problems with the regulation of emotions. There are several abnormal proteins that can be responsible for brain lobe damage.
In dementia with Lewy-Bodies, accumulations of the protein alpha-synuclein are found in the brain cells. These accumulations are called Lewy-Bodies. The degree of complaints experienced by people with dementia with Lewy-Bodies can vary from moment to moment. In addition to thinking disorders, visual hallucinations and Parkinson’s-like symptoms (tremors, slow movement, and stiffness) occur in this form.
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