In TYPES of Dementia – leading causes, we discussed a handful of the leading causes of dementia: Alzheimer’s, Lewy body disease, vascular dementia, and Parkinson’s. In this article, we’ll overview the rarer types in order to help raise awareness.
Print this page and the article linked above to know what to look for in your loved one or client. Keep notes to discuss with the doctor who will have more information to make a diagnosis.
What is dementia?
Dementia is an umbrella term describing cognitive impairment due to a dozen different and sometimes overlapping causes. Below are the rarer causes leading to dementia.
Rarer causes of dementia
Frontotemporal lobe dementia
About 5% of cases are due to frontotemporal lobe dementia (FTD) resulting in progressive aphasia (language difficulty) and progressive supranuclear palsy (affecting balance, coordination, and causing rigidity). Also known as Pick’s disease, this is a common form of dementia among those between 45-65 years of age according to Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. Like Lewy body dementia, FTD affects the front and temporal lobes and is commonly misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s, stroke, midlife crisis, psychiatric illness due to dramatic changes in personality, including outbursts, impulsiveness, and palilalia—compulsive repetition. Yet, on the other hand, people with FTD exhibit a decline in social skills and emotional apathy. Memory loss follows later.
A rare hereditary disorder due to a defective gene on chromosome 4 affecting the central nervous system. It usually strikes between the ages of 30 and 40 and lasts for 20 years. Symptoms include changes in behavior with fidgeting and twisting and jerking movements of the entire body with difficulty walking. People with HD exhibit memory loss, confusion, hallucinations, mood swings, depression, and slurred speech.
A rare infectious disease with rapid decline (a few months to a few years) that received notoriety due to the well-publicized mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the human form strikes one in a million people annually resulting from an abnormal version of a protein called a prion or proteinaceous infectious particle. For more information click on the following link for a 2-page factsheet on Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD)
Occurs when cerebrospinal fluid fills the brain’s cavities adding pressure to brain’s ability to function. It affects one’s ability to walk, to balance and to control bladder urges. Speaking is also affected. It is reversible if caught early enough before brain damage occurs due to too much pressure.
Wernicke – Korsakoff syndrome
Often mistaken for vascular dementia, malnourishment due to not absorbing nutrients from food properly due to cancer, AIDS, heart disease, high thyroid levels, long-term dialysis. Also due to thiamine deficiency (vitamin B1) often associated with alcoholism. Results in confusion, gaps in memory, impaired short-term memory, and abnormal (back and forth) eye movements. For more information visit: Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome
Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)
Describes cognitive decline due to aging vs. decline related to dementia. Some with MCI never develop dementia, while others experience problems with memory, thinking, and judgment related to Alzheimer’s or other type of dementia. The symptoms are indicated on the Mayo Clinic site for MCI. Ongoing stress may also be a contributor given these symptoms.
Should be described as a leading cause of dementia, because all caregivers will at one time or another behave in ways that mimic symptoms of dementia. Considering there are approximately three caregivers for every person with dementia, we are easily looking at a worldwide population of over 100 million caregivers who at one time or another exhibit dementia-like symptoms–such as forgetfulness, disorientation, and even hallucinations.The good news is this leading cause of dementia is entirely reversible with regular periods of respite, help, and/or once the need for caregiving ends.
A term used to describe the inability to think clearly resulting from chemotherapy. As newer chemo treatments reduce the effects of cognitive impairment, this will be less so. However, the heavy doses of treatment associated with cancer may also affect cognition due to malnourishment (review Wernicke – Korsakoff syndrome above).
Also, dementia-like symptoms affect cognition among some people living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) later in the disease. More studies are needed in this area.
Urinary Tract Infections
UTIs can significantly impair a person’s ability to think and reason and to behave abnormally. This is usually reversible with better hygiene; however, some medications may make some more susceptible to these infections.
These rarer causes of dementia with the four TYPES of Dementia – leading causes make up the pieces of the dementia pie. Again, print both articles and refer to them often while observing loved ones’ or clients’ behaviors.