Wednesday, 1 Feb 2023

Mixed dementia ‘more common in older age groups’ – what is it? Symptoms to spot

Steve Thompson recalls signs of his early-onset dementia

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Mixed dementia is a term that means the patient is living with more than one type of dementia. It is thought “at least” one in 10 patients have mixed dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, it is “much more common in older age groups, such as those over 75 years”.

The most prevalent type of mixed dementia is Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

However, other combinations are possible, such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia with Lewy bodies.

The Alzheimer’s Society said the condition often goes “undiagnosed”.

“Despite many older people having both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular problems, relatively few are diagnosed with ‘mixed dementia’,” it says.

“Doctors tend to only use the term ‘mixed dementia’ when a person has clear clinical features of two types of disease that directly contribute to dementia symptoms.”

Signs of mixed dementia will depend on the types of dementia the person has.

“Often someone will have a greater amount of one type of dementia than another,” the charity explains.

“In such cases, we talk about this type being ‘predominant’.”

People living with a mix of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia might experience:

  • Memory problems
  • Language difficulties
  • Becoming confused more easily
  • Slower processing of thoughts and information
  • Difficulties with planning or problem-solving
  • Trouble concentrating for more than a short period.

Those with Alzheimer’s and Lewy body disease could experience:

  • Memory problems
  • Language difficulties
  • Becoming confused more easily
  • Very disturbed sleep and visual hallucinations
  • Rapid fluctuations in their ability to function properly
  • Feeling confused or disoriented quite suddenly.

The Alzheimer’s Society says: “Alzheimer’s disease is caused by a build-up of faulty proteins in and around brain cells – particularly cells that help to form memories.

“The ‘vascular’ part of mixed dementia is caused by problems with the supply of blood throughout the brain.”

Vascular dementia can be a result of having a stroke or a series of mini-strokes.

“In other cases it can be due to a more gradual deterioration of small blood vessels over many years,” the charity says.

“Vascular disease prevents brain cells from getting enough oxygen and nutrients.”

It adds: “Lewy bodies are the clumps of faulty proteins that build up in the brain cells of people who have Parkinson’s disease or dementia with Lewy bodies.

“Lewy body disease has quite distinct features not seen in the other dementias.

“It tends to affect different parts of the brain that control body movement and processing of sensory information.”

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