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What Causes Dementia?

Memory Care FAQs

Dementia, the term used to describe symptoms that occur when there is a decline in brain function, is caused by several different diseases. To fully understand what causes dementia, it is necessary to look at the different diseases associated with it and how they affect the body.

For the purposes of this article, we will look at some of the most common causes of dementia and their effects on our bodies. These are:

  • Alzheimer’s disease – the most common type of dementia
  • Vascular dementia
  • Mixed dementia
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies
  • Frontotemporal dementia
What Causes Dementia?

What Causes Alzheimer’s Disease?

Researchers have found that individuals with Alzheimer’s disease have two kinds of proteins present in their brains. These are called amyloid and tau. When these proteins build up they cause nerve cells to stop functioning as effectively, and they eventually die. It has also been observed that, in the brains of those living with Alzheimer’s, there are less neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers whose function is to send messages between brain cells.

Both of these things combined cause the brain to shrink. When this happens, symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease may start to appear.

What Causes Vascular Dementia?

Vascular dementia can be caused by reduced blood flow to the brain. This can occur if the blood vessels in the brain become too narrow as a result of small vessel disease, or if a person suffers a stroke or a series of mini strokes.

If you have had a stroke, this doesn’t mean you will develop dementia, however the risk is higher in instances where blood flow to the brain has been reduced.

What Causes Mixed Dementia?

Mixed dementia is diagnosed when a person has both vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It is believed that this type of dementia develops as a direct result of the two conditions, however it is very difficult to ascertain how much either one or the other is contributing to the symptoms a person is experiencing.

What Causes Dementia with Lewy Bodies?

Dementia with Lewy bodies (or Lewy body dementia) is a common type of dementia. It is caused by a build up of a protein called alpha-synuclein, which clumps together to form Lewy bodies. Much like in Alzheimer’s, these proteins cause damage to the cells in the brain responsible for sending messages.

What Causes Frontotemporal Dementia?

Frontotemporal dementia is caused by an abnormal build-up of proteins in the brain, specifically in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. Again, this build of proteins causes brain cells to die, and when this happens the brain shrinks in the affected areas. It is thought that frontotemporal dementia has a strong genetic link and is more likely to run in families.

Other Dementia Causing Diseases

There are a number of rarer diseases and conditions that can lead to dementia, however they account for only 5% of cases in the UK, so are much less prevalent. These are Huntington’s disease, corticobasal degeneration, progressive supranuclear palsy, normal pressure hydrocephalus.

At present, research into dementia is ongoing to further understand what causes it and if any preventative measures can be taken to stop it. In the meantime, it is important for us to understand how to effectively care for an individual with dementia, and how to cope with the symptoms and manifestations of dementia in daily life.

Speak to out Team Today for Friendly Advice and Support

At Lovett Care, we provide specialist dementia care within our homes to individuals living with all types of dementia. From day care to long-term residential care, our team are dedicated to preserving the quality of life of residents while promoting independence as far as possible. For more information about our care homes, or for support with caring for someone living with dementia, please contact us.

You can also find more helpful resources online from the following sources:

Alzheimer’s Society

Dementia Friends

Dementia UK