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Dementia is a syndrome that causes a serious loss of cognitive ability, beyond that of normal aging. Symptoms of dementia include:
- Loss of memory
- Loss of judgment and reasoning
- Difficulties with speech and movement
- Changes in mood and behavior
These symptoms may affect a person’s ability to function at work, in social relationships or in day-to-day activities. Sometimes symptoms of dementia can be caused by conditions that may be treatable, such as depression, thyroid disease, infections or drug interactions. If the symptoms are not treatable and progress over time, they may be due to damage to the nerve cells in the brain.
The Alzheimer Society of Toronto offers free support and information to anyone touched by dementia, regardless of the dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease is a fatal, progressive and degenerative disease that destroys brain cells. It is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 64 per cent of all dementias in Canada.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a rare form of irreversible dementia that comes on fast. It is caused by infectious proteins called prions. Prions are proteins that are naturally in the brain and are normally harmless. When they are not shaped properly, however, they can have devastating effects. They can attack the brain, kill cells and create gaps or holes in brain tissue.
Frontotemporal dementia tends to occur at a younger age than Alzheimer’s disease and can affect both men and women. The average length of the disease can vary. This type of dementia resembles Alzheimer’s disease in that it also involves a progressive degeneration of brain cells that is irreversible.
Unlike Alzheimer’s disease, which generally affects most areas of the brain, frontotemporal dementia is an umbrella term for a group of rare disorders that primarily affect the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain – the areas generally associated with personality and behaviour.
Lewy body dementia is a form of dementia that occurs because of abnormal deposits of a protein called alpha-synuclein inside the brain’s nerve cells. These deposits are called “Lewy bodies,” after the scientist who first described them. The deposits interrupt the brain’s messages. Lewy body dementia usually affects the areas of the brain that involve thinking and movement. Why or how Lewy bodies form is unknown.
Lewy body dementia can occur by itself, or together with Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s. It accounts for 5-15% of all dementias.
Vascular dementia (VaD), also called multi-infarct dementia, occurs when the cells in the brain are deprived of oxygen. A network of blood vessels called the vascular system supplies the brain with oxygen. If there is a blockage in the vascular system, or if it is diseased, blood is prevented from reaching the brain. As a result, cells in the brain die, leading to the symptoms of dementia. After Alzheimer’s disease, VaD is the second leading form of dementia, accounting for up to 20% of all cases.
When Alzheimer’s disease and VaD occur at the same time, the condition is called “mixed dementia”.
Dementia Resources for Children and Teens
If you’re interested in dementia resources for young kids, juniors and teens, Alzheimer’s Research UK has created a wonderful online resource. Kids and teens are also welcome to speak to one of our social workers for help, support and information at 416-322-6560 or by clicking here.