Scroll Down Scroll Up

1.2 Types of dementia

Understand your type of dementia so you can adjust

Dementia is the umbrella term for a group of diseases which affect the brain

Common types of dementia include:

Each type of dementia has different patterns of changes in the brain, different symptoms and different drug treatments. However, non-drug strategies and treatments for symptoms tend to work for all types of dementia.

Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. About 50-70% of all people with dementia have Alzheimer’s disease. People with Alzheimer’s disease typically have trouble with short-term memory. Often short-term memory is affected more than their long-term memory of the past. They may also find it harder to concentrate and solve complex problems, or find themselves thinking more slowly. 

We don’t know what causes Alzheimer’s disease, however there are medications which can slow the progression of symptoms, and a healthy lifestyle including exercise, diet and staying mentally active can also help. People with Alzheimer’s disease typically have deterioration in the areas of their brain involved in memory (i.e., the hippocampus and temporal lobes), as well as more general changes throughout the brain.  

Read more about Alzheimer’s disease from the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada. 

Vascular dementia

Vascular dementia is another common form of dementia. It is caused by poor blood flow in the brain, and this can lead to brain cells dying, mini-strokes or larger strokes. The problems with thinking that people with vascular dementia have may vary, depending on where their brain has been damaged.  

People with vascular dementia usually have heart disease or risk factors for heart disease such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Managing these heart disease risk factors can help slow the progression of vascular dementia. Ask your doctor about this and for more information read 4.5 Attend to other health issues. 

Read more about Vascular Dementia from the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada 

Lewy Body Dementia

Lewy body dementia is a less common type of dementia. People with Lewy body dementia have trouble with their visuo-spatial skills, concentration and attention, movement and falls. They frequently have abnormal movements during sleep. Their concentration and attention can fluctuate. For example, a person may be really clear in the morning and then later that same day feel muddled and confused; these fluctuations can take place over a few days as well. Changes in movement may include developing a slowing or stiffness in the way they walk. People with Lewy body dementia sometimes see things that aren’t there (visual hallucinations) and may also believe things that aren’t true (delusions). People with Lewy body dementia might benefit from physiotherapy to help with their movement. 

We don’t know what causes Lewy body dementia. Because of the similarities in symptoms, we think that Lewy body dementia and Parkinson’s disease are related conditions, however in Lewy body dementia the difficulties with thinking are more prominent first, whereas in Parkinson’s disease the difficulties in movement are more prominent. 

  • Read more about Lewy Body dementia from the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada.
  • Read more about this type of dementia on the Lewy Body Dementia Canada website. The content was created by a carer based on his experiences caring for a parent, and his work with the broader Lewy Body dementia community. Click here to go to the website.
  • Read more about Lewy Body Dementia on the Canadian Lewy Body Dementia Information website. This website was also founded by a carer and is overseen by an advisory board. Click here to go to the website. 

Fronto-temporal dementia

Fronto-temporal dementia is a less common type of dementia. People with fronto-temporal dementia have damage in the frontal and temporal lobes (regions) of their brains. People with fronto-temporal dementia don’t usually have symptoms typical of other dementias, so they sometimes find that clinicians don’t recognize that they have dementia or don’t understand how to support their type of dementia. People with fronto-temporal dementia have told us that they sometimes have to educate their primary care provider or other non-specialist health professional about fronto-temporal dementia. 

There are three subtypes of fronto-temporal dementia, each with a different pattern of symptoms.  

  • Semantic variant of primary progressive aphasia is a subtype of fronto-temporal dementia where the person starts to lose the meanings of words. People with semantic dementia have trouble expressing themselves with words, understanding language, reading and writing. They might particularly benefit from working with a speech language pathologist, as they can provide therapy to improve communication (see 3.10 Speech and occupational therapy). Brain changes start in the temporal lobe in semantic dementia. 
  • Progressive non-fluent aphasia is a subtype of fronto-temporal dementia where the person has difficulty speaking fluently. People with progressive non-fluent aphasia have trouble expressing themselves and following conversations. They might particularly benefit from working with a speech language pathologist, as they can provide therapy to help improve communication (see 3.10 Speech and occupational therapy). Brain changes start in the temporal lobe in progressive non-fluent aphasia dementia. 
  • Behavioural-variant frontal dementia is a subtype of fronto-temporal dementia where the person’s behaviour, mood or personality changes. People with fronto-temporal dementia might become more apathetic, socially disinhibited or socially unaware. They often have trouble with judgement making poor decisions or finding it hard to solve problems. Their behaviour might change. They might develop new behavioural habits, things that they like doing repeatedly, including eating and drinking different foods or drinks.  

Read more about FrontoTemporal dementia from the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada or from the Association of Fronto-Temporal Degeneration .   

Mixed dementia

People with mixed dementia have more than one type of dementia at the same time, often Alzheimer’s disease and vascular brain changes. People with mixed dementia have a variety of symptoms depending on the combination of dementias 

Read more about Mixed dementias from the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada.