Source of Dementia

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Dementia is caused by damage in the brain. The most common causes of dementia are called neurodegenerative diseases, and include Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, and dementia with Lewy bodies. With these diseases, the brain cells degenerate and die more quickly than is part of the normal ageing process. This leads to a decline in a person’s mental and, sometimes, physical abilities. The gradual changes and damage to brain cells are caused by a build-up of abnormal proteins in the brain.

These abnormal proteins are different in each type of neurodegenerative dementia. In most cases, dementia is not inherited directly from family members. However, a small number of cases of Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia can run in families.

Vascular dementia is caused when the brain’s blood supply is interrupted. If the blood supply is restricted or stopped, brain cells begin to die, resulting in brain damage.

The causes of the different types of dementia are listed below:
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
    • Most common form of dementia
    • Loss of brain cells leads to brain shrinking (Atrophy)
    • Cerebral Cortex is particularly affected by (Atrophy)
    • Clumps of protein, known as “plaques” and “tangles”, progressively form in the brain (increasing loss of brain cells)
    • Plaques and tangles cloud neurotransmitters & chemicals from sending messages to other brain cells
  • Vascular Dementia
    • Caused when the brain’s blood supply is interrupted
    • Blood vessels inside the brain narrow and harden (interrupts blood flow)
    • Blood vessels usually narrow and become hard when fatty deposits build up on the blood vessel walls (causes atherosclerosis)
    • More common in people who have high blood pressure, type 1 diabetes and those who smoke
    • if you have had a stroke or been diagnosed with small vessel disease, you may have an increased risk of developing vascular dementia

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  • Dementia with Lewy Bodies
    • Small, circular lumps of protein that develop inside brain cells
    • Unknown cause, also unclear how they damage the brain and cause dementia
    • Theory is it affects two of the messenger chemicals in the brain – dopamine and acetylcholine
    • Dopamine and acetylcholine regulates brain functions, such as memory, learning, mood and attention
    • Physical symptoms include; involuntary shaking (tremor),muscle stiffness and slowness of movement

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  • Frontotemporal Dementia
    • Caused by damage and shrinking in two areas of the brain (Temporal Lobe & Frontal Lobe)
    • Seen in people who are under 65 years of age
    • 20% of cases, who develop Frontotemporal dementia inherited a genetic mutation from their parents

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