Information about dementia

What is Dementia?

Understanding the term 'dementia'

Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe various neurological conditions which all damage brain cells and lead to a loss of brain function. It includes Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia and more than 100 other types. Dementia is not a normal part of ageing.

Dementia is characterised by a deterioration in memory and in a person's ability to:

  • Carry out everyday activities
  • Make decisions
  • Understand information
  • Express themselves

Dementia may also affect a person's mood, movement, personality and behaviour.

Read more about dementia symptoms

Types of Dementia

There are more than 100 different types of dementia. The most common forms are:

  • Alzheimer's disease
    Accounting for the majority of dementia cases, Alzheimer’s disease affects the brain through the build-up of proteins which cause plaques and tangles
  • Vascular dementia
    The second most common type, vascular dementia is the term used for the group of dementias characterised by problems circulating blood to the brain
  • Lewy body dementia
    A form of dementia that includes the presence of abnormal structures in the brain, known as Lewy bodies
  • Frontotemporal dementia (frontal lobe dementia)
    A group of dementias that are caused by degeneration of the frontal and / or temporal lobes of the brain
  • Korsakoff disease (alcohol-related brain injury)
    A dementia that is caused by a severe vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency, most often seen in those who misuse alcohol.

Read more about types of dementia

Stages of Dementia

Dementia is a progressive disease, which means the symptoms will get worse over time. How fast this will occur will depend on the type of dementia and which area of the brain is affected.

Progression can also differ from person to person, meaning that each person will have their own, unique experience with dementia.

The earlier a person gets a diagnosis of dementia, the earlier they will be able to access help to put in place strategies and get professional services. There are also a range of illnesses that can present dementia-like symptoms, so it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis to ensure that you get the right treatment and support.

Read more about the stages of dementia and dementia symptoms.

Causes of Dementia

In recent years we have seen a large increase in the number of people diagnosed with dementia, and this is predicted to increase dramatically in the future as our population gets older. Currently there are more than 350,000 people in Australia living with dementia, and this is expected to rise to almost 900,000 by 2050.

While dementia is not a normal part of ageing it typically appears after 65 years of age. However, dementia can happen to anyone - it has been diagnosed in people in their 50s, 40s, and even as young as 30.

Read more about the causes of dementia and younger onset dementia.

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