Mixed dementia (also known as “dementia multifactorial”) is exactly as the name suggests. In mixed dementia, the presence of more than one type of dementia is seen to occur simultaneously.
With mixed dementia, abnormal protein deposits (often associated with Alzheimer’s disease) are seen to coexist with problems linked to vascular dementia. Additionally, changes to the brain that are typically associated with Alzheimer’s disease coexist with Lewy bodies. Sometimes, although it is rare, a person may present with brain changes that are linked to Alzheimer’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, and vascular dementia. Because of the overlap of symptoms, medical professionals are uncertain how many adults actually have mixed dementia. It is certainly possible that a person could be diagnosed with only one form of dementia when in reality he or she has mixed dementia.
The symptoms of mixed dementia vary, depending on which region or regions of the brain have been affected and depending on the type of brain changes that are involved. Also, the symptoms often look similar to Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. In some cases, the symptoms of mixed dementia clearly suggest that multiple types of dementia are present in a person’s body and brain. The most common combination in mixed dementia is Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, but other combinations exist as well.
Brain or Physical Changes
As the name suggests, mixed dementia indicates a combination of diseases or disorders (including neurodegenerative and vascular disease-related processes). Therefore, multiple types of brain changes can present in the person affected. Sometimes mixed dementia is the result of, or results in, stroke. Sometimes Lewy bodies are present in the brain. Medical professionals currently believe that vascular changes are the most common brain change in mixed dementia.
Causes and/or Risk Factors
Although a “mixed dementia” diagnosis is still fairly rare, scientists and researchers believe it should be given more attention as more people may have mixed dementia than receive the actual diagnosis. Additionally, since vascular changes are the most common brain change in mixed dementia, doctors believe controlling certain risk factors that affect the heart and the blood vessels could protect the brain from the vascular changes that lead to mixed dementia.
Some of these risk factors could include the following:
- Body weight
- Blood pressure
- Cholesterol levels
Diagnosis, Treatment, and Care
Unfortunately, a confirmed diagnosis of mixed dementia can only come after an autopsy of the brain. Many – if not most – individuals whose autopsy confirms mixed dementia were actually diagnosed with a single form of dementia prior to death. And perhaps no surprise, most often, the single form of dementia diagnosed is Alzheimer’s disease. It would make sense that since many patients with mixed dementia are actually diagnosed with a single form of dementia, many patients receive treatment and prescribing decisions based on that single form of dementia. As such, no current drugs are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for mixed dementia.