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Dementia Types

Because there are so many conditions that can cause dementia, doctors often categorize cases of dementia based on factors such as what part of the brain is affected or what is causing the dementia. For example, cases of dementia may be said to be cortical or subcortical, depending on whether the brain damage is affecting the cortex. Other types of dementia include primary dementia, secondary dementia, and progressive dementia.

An Overview of Dementia Types

Dementia is not a specific disease. It is a descriptive term for a collection of symptoms that affect the functioning of the brain. Dementia can affect such things as memory, behavior, and language skills. A number of different conditions that affect the brain may cause dementia (see Causes of Dementia).
Because so many conditions can cause dementia, some doctors and researchers have tried to categorize cases of dementia into types based on what part of the brain is affected or what is causing the dementia. Other doctors classify cases of dementia based on whether the cause of the dementia is treatable or not.
Although Alzheimer's disease and certain other conditions are technically causes of dementia, they are also often referred to as types of dementia. Likewise, terms such as "vascular dementia" are often used to describe causes as well as types of dementia.

A Classification System for the Types of Dementia

Dementing disorders can be classified in many different ways. These classification schemes attempt to group disorders that have particular features in common, such as whether they are progressive or what parts of the brain are affected. Examples of dementia types include the following:
  • Cortical dementia
  • Subcortical dementia
  • Progressive dementia
  • Primary dementia
  • Secondary dementia.
Some types of dementia fit into more than one of these classifications. For example, Alzheimer's disease is considered a progressive, primary, and cortical dementia.
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