Alzheimer’s and dementia are intrinsically linked, with Alzheimer’s being the primary cause of dementia. However, there are other rarer forms of dementia that can also be triggered by rarer diseases and conditions, which are not necessarily linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
With this is mind it’s important to know the many different ‘faces of dementia’ and some of the tell-tale signs.
Corticobasal degeneration (CBD)
This rare form of dementia usually affects people between the ages of 60 – 80 and is a disease where parts of the brain become damaged due to its shrinking. The first symptoms of CBD include problems with movement, stiffness, jerkiness in limbs and a failure to control hand movements – also known as ‘alien hand syndrome’. Further symptoms include loss of balance, co-ordination and difficulties speaking and swallowing.
An inherited disease, Huntington’s causes problems with movement, co-ordination, mood and cognitive impairment which tends to progressively deteriorate over time. Those suffering with Huntington’s may also experience difficulty concentrating, planning or organising things, as well as short-term memory loss and a development of obsessive behaviour. The onset of this disease varies person-to-person and dementia can begin to occur at any stage or age throughout the illness.
Niemann-Pick disease type C
This is an extremely rare form of dementia that affects those of school-age and early adulthood. It is an inherited disease that is not related to frontotemporal dementia, but rather is an inability to process cholesterol and fats, including those found in the brain. Symptoms of this disease include a loss of movement and difficulty in walking and swallowing. The dementia symptoms might include confusion, memory loss and difficulties concentrating or learning.
Posterior cortical atrophy (PCA)
Also known as Benson’s Syndrome, this rare degenerative disease affects the back or posterior of the brain, with the main cause of PCA usually being Alzheimer’s disease. Occurring in those between the ages of 50-60 years, symptoms may be indiscernible at first, but generally get progressively obvious. Despite a well-preserved memory, those with PCA will experience difficulties with vision, recognition of faces and objects, literacy and numbers. As time progresses, typical symptoms of Alzheimer’s will appear, including memory loss and confusion.
Being aware of the many different faces of dementia is just one positive step in understanding this complex disease. It could also help with early detection – giving those you care about an opportunity for adequate future planning!