Blog Post Published August 2013

What is Dementia?

Dementia is not a disease in itself, it is a collection of symptoms caused by disorders affecting the brain (like Alzheimer’s Disease). Common dementia symptoms may include memory loss, communication problems, mood changes and poor judgement.

Dementia vs Alzheimer’s Disease

Dementia is the symptom and Alzheimer’s Disease is the cause of this symptom.
Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common cause of dementia.

Disorders that cause dementia:

There are more than 100 different disorders causing dementia. The most common are:

Alzheimer’s Disease

  • Alzheimer’s Disease is a degenerative brain disorder that attacks the brain’s nerve cells.
  • It is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for around 50-70% of cases of dementia.
  • Alzheimer’s Disease is characterised by loss of memory, lapses of judgement, reduced language skills, personality changes and other behavioural changes.
  • Occurring most often in the elderly population, the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease doubles every five years after the age of 65.

Vascular Dementia

  • Vascular dementia is caused by reduced blood flow to the brain, usually from a stroke or series of strokes.
  • Depending on the severity, vascular dementia can occur gradually or suddenly. It is considered to be the second most common cause of dementia account for 20% of cases.
  • Symptoms may include memory loss, confusion, poor concentration, mood changes, dizziness, balance problems.

Dementia with Lewy Bodies

  • Lewy Body Dementia is caused by abnormal proteins called Lewy Bodies that develop inside the nerve cells.
  • This disease is similar to Alzheimer’s Disease and is the third most common cause of dementia accounting for 15% of cases.
  • An estimated 30% of people with Alzheimer's also have Lewy bodies.
  • Symptoms may include lethargy, speech problems, hallucinations and depression.

Fronto-temporal Dementia

  • Frontotemporal dementia is caused by damage focused in the front and side regions of the brain - the frontal and/or temporal lobes. These areas are responsible for our behaviour, emotional responses and language skills.
  • Personality and behaviour changes are the first signs.

Mixed Dementia

  • Mixed dementia is a condition in which Alzheimer's disease and another form of dementia, most commonly vascular dementia, occur at the same time.
  • Symptoms are often similar to and sometimes even indistinguishable from those of Alzheimer's Disease.

Parkinson’s Disease

  • Many people with Parkinson's disease go on to develop dementia in the later stages of the disease.
  • Parkinson’s Disease is a Lewy Bodies disorder.
  • Symptoms include changes in memory, concentration and judgement.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is a rare, degenerative and rapidly fatal brain disorder.
  • Caused by prion protein in the brain.
  • Symptoms include loss of memory and coordination and behaviour changes.

Dementia Worldwide:

  • There are currently over 36 million people with dementia in the world.
  • More than two thirds of people living with dementia worldwide do not have a diagnosis.
  • The number of people living with dementia worldwide is expected to double every 20 years.

Dementia in Australia:

  • There are 1,700 new cases of dementia in Australia each week.
    This is expected to increase to 7,400 new cases each week by 2050.
  • 1 in 4 people over 85 have dementia
  • Over 1 million Australians are estimated to be caring for someone with dementia
  • Dementia is the third leading cause of death in Australia
  • Dementia faces a shortfall of more than 150,000 carers for people with dementia by 2029.

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