What is Dementia?

Dementia is an umbrella term covering over two hundred progressive neurological conditions.  Dementia describes a group of symptoms that occur when brain cells stop working properly .  This change happens in parts of the brain that impact on how you think, communicate and remember. The range of symptoms varies from person to person but can include:

          • Forgetfulness
          • Not recognising people
          • Misplacing items
          • Losing track of time
          • Loss of concentration
          • Indecisiveness
          • Mood swings
          • Difficulty following conversations
          • Finding reading and writing challenging

Dementia is not a normal part of getting old, although the risk of developing dementia increases with age.   There are several things you can do to reduce the chance of developing it:

          • Taking regular exercise
          • Consuming less alcohol
          • Quitting smoking
          • Eating healthily
          • Keeping your mind active

Diagnosis is usually made through your GP, who can assess whether you have any other underlying conditions and refer you onto a specialist if necessary. Formal diagnosis depends on which type of dementia is suspected but can include an assessment of memory and cognitive skills, blood tests and an MRI or CT scan.

Common dementia types

Alzheimer’s disease
Caused by a build up of protein deposits in the brain. Over time this build up can cause damage to the nerve cells and eventually over time can cause them to die.  The symptoms depend on which area of the brain is affected, but memory loss is common in the early stages.

Vascular dementia
Caused by damage to the blood vessels that carry oxygen to the brain. This is often after a stroke or other disease that affects the brain.  The symptoms are heavily dependent on which areas of the brain are affected by the stroke.

Frontotemporal dementia
Caused by the build up of abnormal proteins in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. The symptoms can include changes in personality, loss of inhibition and difficulty communicating.

Lewy body dementia
Caused by abnormal protein clumps called Lewy bodies inside brain cells. The symptoms commonly include visual hallucinations, disturbed sleep and mobility problems.

Mixed dementia
Multiple dementia types can occur simultaneously, usually Alzheimer’s disease and Vascular dementia . The symptoms will be a mixture of those found in the co-occurring dementia types.

More information

See the following sites for more in-depth information on dementia: