DEMENTIA: What is it, Types, Symptoms and Causes

  • Jul 26, 2021
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Dementia: what is it, types, symptoms and causes

In the general population, the idea that the appearance of dementia is inevitable in aging is still conceived, although it is not. It is true that in the world there are approximately 50 million people who suffer from dementia and its highest incidence is in the elderly, however Although it mainly affects the elderly, it is not an exclusive disease of advanced ages, nor is it inevitable that it appears due to age.

Dementia represents one of the main causes of disability and dependency of the population and causes a strong physical, psychological and social impact on the people who suffer it, but it also generates a great impact on their immediate environment. Due to its high prevalence in the population, it is very important to know the types of dementias and their characteristics. If you want to know more about dementia, keep reading this Psychology-Online article, where we will explain the dementia: what is it, types, symptoms and causes.

You may also like: Senile dementia: symptoms and phases


  1. Dementia: what is it
  2. Types of dementia
  3. Senile dementia
  4. Vascular dementia
  5. Frontotemporal dementia
  6. Lewy body dementia
  7. Alzheimer disease

Dementia: what is it.

Dementia is a clinical syndrome, usually presenting with chronic or progressive in nature, characterized by a deficit of cognitive functions, which mainly affects the memory, behavior, orientation, learning ability, logic of thought, judgment and language. This cognitive deterioration tends to be later accompanied by a deterioration in emotional aspects, motivation and social behavior.

Types of dementia.

Within this clinical syndrome, we can find different forms of dementia. However, the boundaries between the different clinical pictures of dementia tend to be blurred, which is why mixed forms of dementia are common. Between the most common types of dementia we can find:

  1. Senile dementia
  2. Vascular dementia
  3. Frontotemporal dementia
  4. Lewy body dementia
  5. Alzheimer disease

Senile dementia.

What is senile dementia?

Senile dementia is not considered a specific disease, it is a term used to classify the appearance of dementia in old age and is characterized by a impaired cognitive functioning, highlighting the loss of memory, the alteration in the language and the loss of judgment or difficulty in reasoning, as well as the appearance of changes in the personality of the person.

The term senile dementia every time is more in disuseIt is incorrect to associate the appearance of dementia with advanced ages, since it can appear at any age.

Symptoms of senile dementia

The symptoms presented in senile dementia are related to the functionality of the brain, among the most common symptoms of this clinical picture we can find:

  • Alterations in language.
  • Personality and mood changes, appearing episodes of emotional instability, irritability, agitation and irascibility.
  • Short-term and long-term memory loss.
  • Alteration in the perception of space and time, leading to confusion.
  • Loss of cognitive skills, such as learning, reasoning, judgment, and decision-making.
  • Alteration in sleeping habits.
  • In more advanced stages, an inability to self-care appears (neglect of personal hygiene, eating difficulties, incontinence ...), which requires dependency relationships
  • Weightloss.
  • Motor difficulties, progressively losing the stability to be able to walk.

Causes of senile dementia

Currently it is not known exactly what the causes of senile dementia are, however it has been linked to many factors. However, the main cause with which senile dementia has been linked is the appearance of Alzheimer's disease, which has a prevalence of more than 65% of dementia cases world. However, when it comes to irreversible dementia, senile dementia can also appear because of the disease with Lewy bodies, Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease, frontotemporal degeneration, and disease vascular. In article you can see the difference between senile dementia and Alzheimer's.

On the other hand, certain brain lesions, the appearance of tumors, depression, poor diet or alcoholism, can also be the cause of the development of senile dementia. However, in these cases it can become reversible.

Treatment of senile dementia

Treatment of senile dementia it will depend on its origin. If dementia symptoms are caused by diet, depression, or alcoholism, the main disorder or problem causing the symptoms should be treated.

On the other hand, if its appearance is due to the development of Alzheimer's disease or another classification of dementia, such as vascular dementia, nowadays there is no treatment that prevents its evolution, as they are diseases degenerative. However, if the disease is detected in the early stages, medications can be introduced to help slow down deterioration and make use of psychotherapeutic therapies that help increase quality of life.

Dementia: what is it, types, symptoms and causes - Senile dementia

Vascular dementia.

What is vascular dementia?

Vascular dementia is the second most prevalent dementia, with a prevalence of 10-20%, the first being Alzheimer's disease. In order to be considered a vascular dementia, a cognitive impairment linked to brain injury, which must be caused by a cerebrovascular disease that interferes with daily activities. In this article you can see the difference between vascular dementia and Alzheimer's.

Symptoms of vascular dementia

The appearance of symptoms in this type of dementia will be very different in each person, depending on the etiology of the disease. However, some of the symptoms may be similar to other types of dementia. The most frequent symptoms in vascular dementia are:

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Appearance of depressed mood as a result of dementia
  • Epileptic seizures
  • Acute confusion
  • Appearance of hallucinations and / or delusions
  • Irascibility and irritability, which can cause aggressive behaviors on a physical and / or verbal level
  • Neurological symptoms, such as paralysis or decreased physical strength
  • Incontinence problems

Causes of vascular dementia

As we have previously indicated, the appearance of vascular dementia is due to a cerebrovascular disease. However, there is a set of factors that increase the damage produced, among them we can find: age, suffering from a stroke, high cholesterol levels, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and the smoking.

Vascular dementia treatment

Being a disease caused by brain damage, we are faced with a irreversible dementiaHowever, although the cognitive deterioration produced cannot be recovered, its development can be delayed by acting on different cardiovascular risk factors, such as:

  • Control over blood pressure, keeping an exhaustive control against hypertension and heart problems. To prevent arterial alterations, it is essential to have a correct diet.
  • Avoid high cholesterol levels, with a proper diet and exercise.
  • In the face of diabetes, keep a check on the levels of glycemia and glycosylated hemoglobin.
  • Avoid the consumption of tobacco and alcohol.
  • Perform rehabilitation treatments, such as physical therapy and receive support in the language and memory, to try to maximize cognitive functions as far as possible in deterioration.
Dementia: what is it, types, symptoms and causes - Vascular dementia

Frontotemporal dementia.

What is frontotemporal dementia?

Frontotemporal dementia is the most unknown dementia of all, commonly mistaken for a psychiatric disorder due to its course. Its prevalence is 10% in the population and it usually appears between 40 and 75 years of age.

This kind of dementia affects the frontal lobes, in charge of behavior and emotions and temporary, which attend to the functions on the perception of hearing, memory, language, understanding, emotionality, visual perception and facial recognition.

Symptoms of frontotemporal dementia

The symptoms in this type of dementia can be very different in all people, depending on the predominance of the affected areas and their development, because it is a neurodegenerative disease. Among the most frequent symptoms we can find:

  • Changes in behavior and personalityInappropriate actions may appear depending on the context, the appearance of apathy, repetitive compulsive behaviors, impaired judgment, disinhibition, deterioration in personal hygiene and changes in eating habits and lack of awareness, among others.
  • Language and speech disturbances: a progressive difficulty may appear to use language and understand it. On the other hand, they may present anomie (difficulty in naming objects) or lose the ability to recognize the meaning of words. The appearance of telegraphic speeches is also frequent, making erroneous constructions in the sentences.
  • Disturbance in movement: it is also characterized by the appearance of alterations in movement, similar to those that appear in the Parkinson's diseasesuch as: tremor, muscle twitching, impaired coordination, stiffness, difficulty swallowing or muscle weakness.

Causes of frontotemporal dementia

The causes of frontotemporal dementia are unknown, however it has been linked to mutation of a set of genes, which directly affect the temporal and frontal lobes, causing them to shrink. Still, in 60% of frontotemporal dementia cases, there is no family history of the disease.

Treatment of frontotemporal dementia

Being a irreversible dementiaLike vascular dementia, there is currently no treatment to reverse the disease. However, depending on the symptoms presented, certain drugs are used that reduce symptoms.

At the behavioral level, aggressive and irritable behaviors tend to be part of the main objectives of treatment, because they are very problematic for the patient and their loved ones dear. These behaviors tend to be dealt with with antipsychotic drugs short term. It is also common to make use of antidepressants, such as trazodone, to treat changes in behavior.

In frontotemporal dementia, non-pharmacological treatment is very important, due to the high problems in language and speech that they present. So it is important to offer strategies to help them improve your communication.

As in other dementias, habits are very important to increase your quality of life, such as a correct diet, avoiding harmful substances such as tobacco or alcohol, exercising regularly and having good sleep and hygiene habits.

Dementia: what is it, types, symptoms and causes - Frontotemporal dementia

Lewy body dementia.

What is Lewy body dementia?

Lewy body dementia, along with Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia, is one of the most common progressive dementias in the population. It is a neurodegenerative disease, so that there is a degeneration, deterioration or death of the neurons of our brain, which occurs progressively and is irreversible. It is characterized by appearance of protein deposits, known as Lewy bodies, in neurons. The appearance of these proteins causes a disruption in the neurotransmitters, namely, interrupts the chemical message and therefore brain function is altered.

Symptoms of Lewy body dementia

The symptoms produced by this type of dementia can fluctuate a lot depending on the person and can be confused symptomatically with other diseases, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. In this dementia, the deterioration in executive functions, the loss of verbal fluency and visuospatial and visuoconstructive alteration, but it seems that other functions What memory, they do not look so altered. However, in this type of dementia, the following symptoms stand out, above those described:

  • Cognitive fluctuations: there are sudden alterations in mental abilities, which cause the person to be at full capacity mental one day (oriented, without speech difficulties and with coherence) and the next to show alterations in all these functions. These changes can be very abrupt, being able to present variations in the same day or the same hour.
  • Visual hallucinations: 80% of people who suffer from this disease have hallucinations, generally visual and more unusually auditory, olfactory or tactile.
  • Parkinsonian symptoms: this disease tends to be confused with Parkinson's due to the similarity of its symptoms. The person with Lewy body dementia may manifest stiffness, tremors at rest, slowness of movement, and trouble maintaining balance.

Causes of Lewy body dementia

At present, the causes that generate the manufacture of neural proteins, responsible for Lewy body dementia and is commonly confused with Parkinson's disease, with which it shares many similarities at the symptomatic and neurological level. It is also often difficult to differentiate it from Alzheimer's disease, because it has been observed accumulations of amyloid material occur in brain tissue, as in Alzheimer's.

Although there is talk of genetic factors, there is no evidence to show that there is a genetic predisposition and it is possible emphasize that as it is a degenerative dementia, aging is one of the main risk factors for its growth.

Treatment of Lewy body dementia

Being a irreversible disease, there is currently no treatment for its remission. However, there are treatments to slow its development and to alleviate its symptoms.

At the pharmacological level, it has been observed that certain medicines used in Alzheimer's disease help to reduce symptoms cognitive and behavioral disease. However, caution should be exercised when prescribing drugs that are used in Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease, since it has been observed that can respond adversely to them, as is the case with certain antipsychotics such as Risperidone and Haloperidol and some antiparkinsons.

It is important, in addition to the administration of drugs, to carry out a cognitive stimulation offering the person strategies that can be used to improve cognitive functions and abilities, such as concentration, attention, language or orientation processes.

Dementia: what it is, types, symptoms and causes - Lewy body dementia

Alzheimer disease.

What is Alzheimer's disease?

The Alzheimer's it is the most prevalent dementia, with 65% of the cases. It is a neurodegenerative disease, which generally causes a pronounced and progressive loss of brain neurons. Its appearance is generally concentrated in the elderly and unusually in the young or adults.

Symptoms in Alzheimer's disease

As in other types of dementia, the appearance of its symptoms can vary greatly depending on the person, because there is no single course of the disease and this may not be perceived until there is evolved. However, the symptoms that give rise to this disease are:

  • Memory loss: in the disease there is initially a deterioration short term memory, producing forgetfulness of the closest actions, such as remembering what you have eaten today. The person tends to be aware of these forgetfulness and as the disease progresses, the memory losses are more pronounced and extend to the long term memory.
  • Difficulty performing everyday tasks: Difficulties appear to carry out daily tasks, such as forgetting what to buy, how to use an electrical appliance or forgetting where they left the keys.
  • Language disturbance: the difficulties of expression presented by people suffering from the disease are pronounced, being frequent “circumlocutions” such as: “this afternoon I will go to where the food is bought”, instead of saying Supermarket.
  • Disorientation of time and space: they can feel disoriented most of the time, being frequent that they become disoriented and get lost and that they do not know what day, month, year and place they are.
  • Decreased judgment: impaired judgment leads them to make the wrong decisions, for example: wear a jacket in summer.
  • Abstract thinking: they present difficulties in the face of abstract thinking, such as in calculation.
  • Mood and behavior changes- Sudden mood swings appear, which tend to be accompanied by agitation. This aggressive behavior has a strong impact on your loved ones.
  • Personality changes: Drastic changes occur in the personality, generally towards distrustful, dependent and / or surly personalities.

Causes in Alzheimer's disease

It is the progressive decline in neurons brain causing the development of the disease. Specifically, the acetylcholine neurotransmitter It is produced in smaller amounts, which leads to a deterioration of the cholinergic pathways of the brain system.

Some factors such as age, genetics or environmental factors (such as high-fat diets), are related to a higher probability of its appearance.

Treatment in Alzheimer's disease

Although there is no treatment that reverses the disease, if it is detected in its initial or middle stages, use of medicines that help slow its development, as with the rest of degenerative dementias.

Specifically, the drugs that have been shown to be effective in its treatment are the cholinesterase inhibitors, which for a year and a half allow to delay its development.

As in other dementias, it is important to attend to the psychological and behavioral symptoms, with the aim of increasing the quality of life of these people and those of their environment. To cope with the depressive character they tend to use antidepressant drugs, while to modify sleep disturbances and regulate agitation or hallucinations, are administered neuroleptics and benzodiazepines.

Palliative medicine is one of the main contributions of treatment, as it is essential to seek the greater well-being of these people. At a psychological level, strategies are offered that help the person to accept and cope with illness and death.

All the actions of your treatment are intended to increase the quality of life as much as possible of the people who suffer from it, reducing the physical and psychological pain of them and their loved ones.

Dementia: what is it, types, symptoms and causes - Alzheimer's disease

This article is merely informative, in Psychology-Online we do not have the power to make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment. We invite you to go to a psychologist to treat your particular case.

If you want to read more articles similar to Dementia: what is it, types, symptoms and causes, we recommend that you enter our category of Neuropsychology.


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