Many conditions fall under the “dementia umbrella” and may create similar cognitive symptoms.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), dementia affects 55 million people worldwide. Each year, another 10 million people receive a dementia diagnosis.

But despite the singular name, dementia is actually a group of symptoms, not one disease.

Symptoms of dementia include memory loss, changes in judgment, and shifts in personality and behavior. And while these things may be common for many types of dementia, there are characteristics that set them all apart.

In this article, learn about the dementia umbrella, what types of dementia are included in it, and what causes those conditions. Plus, get resources for living with dementia, whether you have a diagnosis or you’re a caretaker for a person living with dementia.

Dementia can be divided into several types. Each type is a bit different in its causes and symptoms.

Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. It represents 60–70% of all cases of dementia, according to the WHO.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include:

  • memory loss
  • memory impairment
  • changes to language skills

Alzheimer’s disease occurs from the development of amyloid plaques and beta tangles. These proteins form in the brain and impair the brain’s function, interrupting language and memory reserves.

Alzheimer’s disease is most commonly diagnosed in adults in their mid-60s and older. Early onset cases are very rare but possible. These cases may be diagnosed as early as the mid-30s.

Vascular dementia

This type of dementia accounts for 15–20% of all cases of dementia in North America and Europe, according to a 2019 review.

Symptoms of vascular dementia include:

  • impaired motor skills
  • changes in judgment
  • changes in decision making

This type of dementia develops from microscopic bleeding or blood vessel clots in the brain. This can lead to brain damage and injury, which affects the brain’s ability to function properly.

Vascular dementia is typically diagnosed in older adults ages 65 years and older.

Lewy body dementia

Lewy body dementia makes up 5–10% of dementia cases, according to a 2023 study.

Symptoms of Lewy body dementia include:

  • memory loss
  • cognitive decline
  • hallucinations
  • impairments in thinking
  • loss of motor skills

Proteins called Lewy body proteins develop on the nerve cells of the brain.

This type of dementia is more common in people over 50 years old.

Frontotemporal dementia

This type of dementia makes up about 10% of dementia diagnoses, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Symptoms include:

  • personality changes
  • issues with language recall
  • changes in behavior, such as acting impulsively

Frontotemporal dementia is thought to develop from the accumulation of abnormal proteins in the front and temporal lobes of the brain.

A 2023 review estimates it accounts for about 10% of middle-age onset dementia.

It may be responsible for as many cases of dementia in younger people under age 65 years as Alzheimer’s disease. It’s most commonly diagnosed between ages 45 and 64 years.

Other types of dementia

Other, less common types of dementia also fall under the dementia umbrella. Some of these types of dementia are related to other health conditions, including:

Some people have more than one type of dementia. This condition is called mixed dementia.

Despite the term being used commonly as a singular condition or disease, dementia is not just one condition. It’s a general term, or “umbrella term,” doctors use to group several types of conditions.

All of these conditions cause similar symptoms. They include:

  • memory loss
  • episodes of delirium
  • problems with language recall
  • difficulties with everyday tasks, like problem-solving

Despite this similarity, each condition has a different cause. But the common thread is that all of the causes damage the brain’s cells in some way.

Ultimately, all types of dementia are progressive. That means they may start mild but become more significant over time. For most people, dementia ultimately prevents them from functioning independently and being able to carry out everyday tasks and responsibilities.

Keep learning about dementia

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All types of dementia fall under the dementia umbrella. While many people may refer to dementia as a singular condition or disease, it’s actually one term for several conditions.

The different types of dementia have some things in common, such as the impact on the brain and the progressive nature of the conditions.

But they also have differences, and that’s how a doctor can determine which type of dementia a person has. Knowing the type helps you and your doctor, or your loved one’s doctor, choose the best treatment.