9 things you need to know about the diseases that cause dementia

1. Dementia is not a disease in itself

Dementia is a word used to describe a group of symptoms that occur when brain cells stop working properly. It is caused by diseases.

2. Alzheimer’s is the most common disease that causes dementia

It alone accounts for around two thirds of all dementia cases. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can include changes in memory, becoming lost in familiar places, low mood, difficulty communicating, and hallucinations.

3. Vascular dementia is the second most common cause of dementia

Vascular dementia accounts for roughly two in 10 cases. This form of dementia can lead to movement problems, instability and falls, personality changes and being slower in thinking.

4. Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is the third most common cause of dementia

This type of dementia affects 10-15 per cent of people with dementia, roughly 100,000 people in the UK. Dementia with Lewy bodies can cause changes in alertness and attention, movement problems, visual hallucinations and sleep disturbances.

5. Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a relatively rare form of dementia.

FTD, sometimes called Pick’s disease, accounts for fewer than one in 20 dementia cases. It can lead to changes in emotions, lack of interest, inappropriate behaviour, lack of inhibition and several other symptoms.

6. It is possible to have more than one type of dementia at the same time

For example, Alzheimer’s disease is sometimes seen with vascular dementia or dementia with Lewy bodies. This can be called ‘mixed dementia’.

7. There is currently no cure for the diseases that cause dementia

While there are currently some treatments that can help with the symptoms of dementia for a short time, there are no treatments that can stop, slow or prevent the condition.

8. There are several drugs that can help some people with a diagnosis of dementia

Drug treatments currently available can address symptoms in some people, but they are not a cure and don’t stop the disease from progressing in the brain.

Some types of cognitive therapy can also be beneficial for people with different types of dementia.

9. Alzheimer’s Research UK offers detailed information on these topics

For more about the symptoms, diagnosis and treatments for the different forms of dementia, view our information pages.

This information was updated in May 2019 and is due for review in May 2020. It does not replace any advice that doctors, pharmacists or nurses may give you. Please contact us if you would like a version with references.