Dementia can be confusing for those experiencing the symptoms, and their loved ones, because it’s such a general term for a wide array of symptoms.
Dementia is defined as the loss of cognitive functioning like thinking, remembering, and reasoning, to the point where it interferes with daily life and activities. Some dementia patients are unable to control their emotions, and their personalities may change.
This disease progresses in severity from mild to severe, with the mildest stage affecting a person’s functioning minimally and the most severe requiring the person to rely entirely on others for basic daily activities.
Mixed dementia is a term for more than one cause of dementia. Gaining some understanding of some different causes of dementia can provide a sense of direction of what your next steps should be.
What Is Dementia?
Dementia is a broad term for severe loss of memory, language, problem-solving, and other thinking abilities that interfere with daily life caused by abnormal brain changes. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, but there are many causes:
Alzheimer’s disease is caused by the accumulation of faulty proteins in and around brain cells, particularly cells that aid in memory formation. Memory problems, language difficulties, and becoming easily confused are all associated with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Dementia with Lewy Bodies
Lewy bodies are abnormal balloon-like protein clumps found in the brains of people suffering from Lewy body dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. This is a relatively common type of progressive dementia.
The breakdown of nerve cells and their connections in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain characterizes this group of diseases. These are the areas that are most commonly associated with personality, behavior, and language. Symptoms that are common affect behavior, personality, thinking, judgment, language, and movement.
Huntington’s disease, caused by a genetic mutation, causes certain nerve cells in your brain and spinal cord to die. Signs and symptoms, such as a significant decline in thinking skills, usually appear around the age of 30 or 40.
Parkinson’s Disease Dementia
Parkinson’s disease causes brain changes in a region that’s important for movement, resulting in early symptoms such as tremors and shakiness, muscle stiffness, a shuffling step, stooped posture, difficulty initiating movement, and a lack of facial expression.
As Parkinson’s disease progresses, the person’s mental functions, such as memory and the ability to pay attention, make sound judgments, and plan the steps required to complete a task, may change.
Damage to the blood vessels that supply blood to your brain causes this type of dementia. Blood vessel problems can cause strokes or harm the brain in other ways, such as by damaging white matter fibers.
When a person has two or more types of dementia, they are said to have mixed dementia. Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia are the most common types of mixed dementia.
Autopsies on the brains of people aged 80 and up who had dementia revealed that many had a combination of causes, including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, and Lewy body dementia.
There are currently studies being conducted to determine how having mixed dementia affects symptoms and treatments. Researchers don’t know how many older adults currently diagnosed with a specific type of dementia have mixed dementia, but autopsies suggest that the condition is far more common than previously thought.
The symptoms of mixed dementia differ according to the type of dementia a person has. It’s common for someone to have more of one type of dementia than another. Some common symptoms of different kinds of dementia include:
- Getting lost in a familiar setting
- Using strange words to describe familiar objects
- Forgetting a close family member’s or friend’s name
- Forgetting old memories
- Inability to complete tasks independently
Currently, there is no cure for dementia, including mixed dementia. Drugs and other treatments can assist in maintaining a higher level of cognitive function for an extended period but it doesn’t prevent the underlying brain damage.
Cholinesterase inhibitors are the most commonly used medications to treat mixed dementia. These increase levels of a chemical in the brain that aids cell communication.
The best way to treat the effects of mixed dementia, like any other dementia, is to live a healthy lifestyle. This also applies to lowering the risk of mixed dementia. However, before beginning any treatment, we strongly advise consulting with a doctor or a qualified healthcare provider.
How Is Dementia Diagnosed?
A healthcare provider can conduct tests on attention, memory, problem solving, and other cognitive abilities to determine whether there is a possibility of dementia. Other tests to determine the potential causes of dementia include:
- A physical exam
- Blood tests
- Brain scans such as a CT or MRI
- Psychiatric evalutaion
- Genetic tests
Since some causes of symptoms can be treated, early symptom detection is crucial. Receiving an early diagnosis can be beneficial for managing the condition and making plans.
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