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Types of dementia
Dementia is the broad term used to describe a number of different conditions affecting the brain. These are the most common types of dementia.
Over 900,000 people are estimated to be living with dementia in the UK, and someone develops the condition every three minutes.
Dementia causes changes in memory, thinking, personality and behaviour, but symptoms vary depending on which type the person has. Understanding the various types of dementia means people can get the right support to help them live better with the condition.
Here’s what you need to know about some of the most common forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia and frontotemporal dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, and makes up around 60% of diagnoses in the UKAlzheimer's disease information
Around 17% of people diagnosed with dementia will have vascular dementia. It is the second most common form of dementia in the over 65 and is caused by problems in blood supply to the brainVascular dementia information
Frontotemporal dementia refers to a group of dementias that affect the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, impacting personality, behaviour, language and speechFrontotemporal dementia information
At least one in every ten people with dementia is diagnosed as having more than one type, or mixed dementiaMixed dementia information
Lewy body dementia
Lewy body dementia is a progressive condition that affects movement and motor controlLewy body dementia information
Alcohol related brain damage
Alcohol related brain damage is caused by drinking alcohol excessively over a prolonged period of timeAlcohol related damage information
Posterior cortical atrophy
Posterior cortical atrophy is a rare form of dementia which people usually develop between the ages of 50 and 65 and often affects their sightPosterior cortical atrophy information
Huntington’s disease is a genetic disorder caused by a faulty gene on chromosome 4Huntington's disease information
It is estimated that Parkinson’s disease affects about 1 in 500 people, with about a third of people going on to develop dementia in the later stagesParkinson's information
Frequently asked questions about the types of dementia
There are over 200 subtypes of dementia. Each type stops a person’s brain cells (neurones) working properly in specific areas, affecting their ability to remember, think and speak.
Read on for information on the most common types of dementia. Further information about dementia can be found at ‘What is dementia?’.
The most common are Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia and mixed dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for around 60% of diagnoses in the UK. It is also the most common form of young onset dementia (where symptoms develop before the age of 65).
Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia, affecting around 150,000 people in the UK, followed by Lewy body dementia and frontotemporal dementia.
Although dementia has a common set of symptoms, each type presents itself differently, and people may have some or all of the symptoms. They may also have more than one type of dementia (‘mixed dementia’), with symptoms of each. Learn more about the symptoms of dementia.
- Start by making an appointment with the person’s GP
- It’s a good idea to keep a symptom diary or notes of any changes you see – this will help the GP build a picture of what’s going on
- The GP should do some physical health checks, including checking the person’s blood pressure and heart rate, and ordering blood tests. They may also conduct a short assessment of memory and thinking skills
- If the GP suspects the person has dementia, they should refer them to a specialist – usually a memory clinic
- The specialist will conduct a more detailed assessment and may arrange a brain scan
- If dementia is diagnosed, the person should be told what type they have, what happens next, and what they can do to live well with the condition
- Keep in mind that waiting lists for memory assessments can be long, and that the person may need a series of appointments before getting a diagnosis
Learn more about how to get a diagnosis of dementia.
- Take a look at the person’s home to identify any risks, such as slippery surfaces, loose rugs or trailing wires that could be tripped over, or electric heaters that could be left on. Removing hazards will help the person live independently for as long as possible
- Make sure the person takes any medication as prescribed and has regular sight and hearing checks – difficulties seeing or hearing can worsen dementia symptoms
- Compiling a ‘life story’ is a good way to record information about the person with dementia, including personal details, information about their past, likes and dislikes, important people in their life, and so on. This can prompt reminiscence and help health and social care professionals learn more about them. See our guidance and life story template here
- Encourage the person to continue with activities that they enjoy, eg music, exercise, gardening or art. Read more information on meaningful activities
- Eating healthily and being physically active can help to improve the symptoms of dementia and boost the person’s wellbeing
- If the person drives, they must inform the DVLA (DVA in Northern Ireland) of their diagnosis. It doesn’t necessarily mean they will have to stop driving immediately – they may be asked to take a driving assessment or be issued with a shorter driving licence
- Look for support groups for people with dementia and their carers – sharing experiences and making new friendships can be very helpful
- Take steps to help the person sleep well, such as ensuring that their bedroom is dark, comfortable and the right temperature; limiting caffeine before bed; and restricting daytime naps to 30 to 60 minutes so they are sleepy at bedtime
- Please make sure that you are looking after your own physical and emotional wellbeing – if you are in good mental and physical health, you’ll be better able to support the person with dementia