Health and Medicine

Diseases, Disorders, and Other Health Problems

What are two of the most common forms of dementia?

The term “dementia” describes a group of symptoms that are caused by changes in brain function. The two most common forms of dementia in older people are Alzheimer’s disease and multi-infarct dementia (sometimes called vascular dementia). There is no cure for these types of dementia. In Alzheimer’s disease nerve-cell changes in certain parts of the brain result in the death of a large number of cells. Some researchers believe there is a genetic origin to Alzheimer’s disease. An estimated 5.3 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and was reported as the cause of death for 74,632 people in 2007. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease range from mild forgetfulness to serious impairments in thinking, judgment, and the ability to perform daily activities.

In multi-infarct dementia a series of small strokes or changes in the brain’s blood supply may result in the death of brain tissue. The location in the brain where the small strokes occur determines the seriousness of the problem and the symptoms that arise. Symptoms that begin suddenly may be a sign of this kind of dementia. People with multi-infarct dementia are likely to show signs of improvement or remain stable for long periods of time, then quickly develop new symptoms if more strokes occur. In many people with multi-infarct dementia, high blood pressure is to blame.


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