Dementia itself is not a disease; it is the name given to a set of symptoms caused by a number of diseases that affect the brain.

There are four main types of dementia, which affect 19 out of 20 people living with dementia.  Dementia affects everyone differently; however, each type has some common symptoms. A person may also have mixed dementia where they have symptoms of more than one type.

Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for approximately 60% of all cases – meaning more than 520,000 people in the UK have dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease.
The brain is made up from billions of nerve cells that connect to each other. In Alzheimer’s disease, connections between these cells are lost and eventually nerve cells die and the brain shrinks. The brain also contains chemicals that help to send signals between cells. People with Alzheimer’s disease have less of these ‘chemical messengers’ in their brain, so the signals are not passed on as well.

Vascular dementia

Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia, accounting for about 20% of dementia cases in the UK.  

Vascular dementia follows a series of small strokes, often referred to as ‘strokelets’, when a loss of blood flow damages specific areas of the brain. These can vary in location, intensity and frequency. After several strokelets, enough brain cells may be affected to result in dementia.  

Dementia with Lewy bodies

The third most common type of dementia is Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB). This type of dementia involves small clumps of protein (Lewy bodies) forming inside brain cells, which disrupt the chemistry of the brain and lead to the death of brain cells.

Frontotemporal dementia

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD), also known as Pick’s disease or frontal lobe dementia, is a dementia that typically affects people in middle-age, most often between the ages of 45 and 60 years. It results from brain cells dying in the frontal and temporal lobes, resulting in shrinkage of these areas of the brain.
While it is one of the less common forms of dementia, frontotemporal dementia is the second most common type in people under the age of 65, after Alzheimer’s disease.

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