Did You Know There Are 4 Different Types of Alzheimer’s?

Did You Know There Are 4 Different Types of Alzheimer’s?

For decades, experts have been exploring the advancement of Alzheimer’s through one basic model, despite the fact that the symptoms and progression of Alzheimer's can vary from person to person. But now, researchers are looking at the disease as four different types of Alzheimer’s.

A large, collaborative new study between the US, Sweden, Canada, and Korea is uncovering some interesting information to help us better understand and treat Alzheimer’s disease. Rather than one universal, dominant diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, there are actually four unique variants that occur in as many as 18 – 30% of cases. This change in thinking is helping researchers better comprehend the variations in the disease from person to person.

With these findings, specialists are now able to customize treatment plans based on the particular subgroup diagnosed.

Alzheimer's disease is characterized by the abnormal accumulation and spread of the tau protein in the brain. This research reviewed data from more than 1,600 individuals, identifying more than 1,100 who were either in various stages of Alzheimer’s or who were not cognitively impaired at all. Researchers followed these participants for more than two years, funneling every individual who presented tau abnormalities into four specific sub-groups:

  1. Subgroup 1: Occurring in up to one out of three diagnoses, this variant involves the spreading of tau within the temporal lobe. The prevailing impact is on memory.
  2. Subgroup 2: Impacting the cerebral cortex, the second variant has less of an effect on memory and more on executive functioning, such as planning and carrying out actions. It affects about one out of five Alzheimer’s patients.
  3. Subgroup 3: In this variant, the visual cortex is impacted, affecting a person’s orientation to self, ability to distinguish shapes, distance, contours, movement, and an object’s location in relation to other objects. Much like the first variant, it occurs in about one in three diagnoses.
  4. Subgroup 4: This variant represents an asymmetrical spreading of tau in the left hemisphere of the brain, causing the largest impact on language and occurring in about one in five cases of Alzheimer’s.

Oskar Hansson, supervisor of the study and professor of neurology at Lund University, describes future steps: “…we need a longer follow-up study over five to ten years to be able to confirm the four patterns with even greater accuracy.”

No matter which type of dementia a senior loved one has, Amy’s Helping Hands’ caregivers receive significant training in helping manage any challenges while emphasizing his/her strengths. Give us a call at 519-915-4370 and let us develop a plan of care to enhance life for a senior loved one with dementia.