Dementia is not a single illness but a series of symptoms caused by the degeneration of the brain and the subsequent gradual loss of mental ability. A person with dementia will primarily experience problems with memory, understanding, judgement, thinking and language.
It is common for other problems to be caused by the condition, such as changes in personality and in the way a person interacts with others in social situations. As dementia progresses, a person's ability to look after themself from day to day may also become affected.
Who is affected?
Alzheimer's disease is most common in people over the age of 65, and affects slightly more women than men.
The risk of Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia increases with age, affecting an estimated 1 in 14 people over the age of 65 and 1 in every 6 people over the age of 80.
However, around 1 in every 20 cases of Alzheimer's disease affects people aged 40 to 65.
Forms of dementia
Most cases develop as a result of Alzheimer's disease. Other forms of dementia include:
- Vascular dementia. This is due to problems with the blood vessels in the brain. Brain damage is called by a stroke or a series of tiny mini-strokes.
- Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). A type of dementia where abnormal proteins called Lewy bodies are found in the brain.
- Dementia with Parkinson's disease.
- Frontotemporal dementia. A type of dementia where specific parts of the brain only are affected.
- Mixed dementia.
It is not always possible to say what has caused dementia.
If you're becoming increasingly forgetful, particularly if you're over the age of 65, it may be a good idea to talk to your GP about the early signs of dementia.