Symptoms of Dementia
Are These Dementia Symptoms or Another Problem?Sometimes, older people have emotional problems that can be mistaken for dementia. Feeling sad, lonely, worried, or bored may be more common for older people facing retirement or coping with the death of a spouse, relative, or friend. Adapting to these changes leaves some people feeling confused or forgetful. Emotional problems can be eased by supportive friends and family, or by professional help from a healthcare provider or counselor.
Symptoms of Dementia in Certain Medical Conditions
Dementia symptoms will vary, depending on the type of disease that is causing it. Diseases that cause dementia include:
- Alzheimer's disease
- Vascular dementia
- Multi-infarct dementia (a type of vascular dementia caused by a disruption of blood flow to the brain)
- Binswanger's disease
- Lewy body dementia
- Frontotemporal dementia
- Pick's disease (a specific type of frontotemporal dementia)
- Dementia pugilistica
- Corticobasal degeneration
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
We will discuss the symptoms seen with these conditions on the next page. You can also read more about these conditions by clicking any of the previously indicated links.
Dementia Symptoms Explained
The following sections explain in detail common symptoms of dementia that are associated with specific diseases.
The two most common forms of dementia in older people are Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. These types of dementia are irreversible, which means they cannot be cured. Symptoms of Alzheimer's disease begin slowly and become steadily worse. As the disease progresses, symptoms range from mild forgetfulness to serious impairments in thinking, judgment, and the ability to perform daily activities. Eventually, people with the condition may need total care (see Dementia Care).
Symptoms of vascular dementia will depend on the type a person has. Symptoms often begin suddenly, frequently after a stroke. People with vascular dementia may have a history of:
Vascular dementia may or may not get worse with time, depending on whether the person has additional strokes. In some cases, dementia symptoms may get better with time. When vascular dementia does get worse, it often progresses in a stepwise manner, with sudden changes in ability.
However, vascular dementia with brain damage to the mid-brain regions may cause a gradual, progressive cognitive impairment that may look much like Alzheimer's disease. Unlike people with Alzheimer's disease, however, people with vascular dementia often maintain their personality and normal levels of emotional responsiveness until the dementia reaches its latter stages.
People with vascular dementia frequently wander at night and often have other problems commonly found in people who have had a stroke, including depression and incontinence.