What is Rapidly Progressive Dementia?

Rapidly progressive dementias (RPDs) are dementias that progress very quickly. Typically, progression occurs over the course of weeks to months, but sometimes up to two to three years. RPDs are rare and often difficult to diagnose. However, early and accurate diagnosis is very important because many causes of RPDs can be treated.

Some forms of RPD are treatable. If the diagnosis is made quickly, early symptoms may be reversed. Sadly, for some, there is no cure.

So diagnosing and treating RPD early is key. Here you will learn what the symptoms, causes and treatment of RPD are.

Causes of rapidly progressive dementia

There are many conditions that can cause RPD.

Some possible causes include:

  • Autoimmune diseases (when the body’s immune system is activated to fight against its own cells)
  • Unusual presentations of more common neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer’s disease)
  • Infections
  • Impaired blood flow to or in the brain
  • Exposure to toxic substances
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Cancer
  • Hormonal disturbances
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Toxicity from prescribed medications
  • Recurrent seizures

Progression of rapidly progressive dementia

The symptoms and progression of RPD vary between individuals and the underlying cause. Affected people will usually develop problems with their memory, communication and thought processes. They may also develop personality, behavioural and mood changes. Symptoms related to movement may develop due to brain cell injury as the condition worsens.

Many causes of RPD are often treatable and reversible if diagnosed quickly. For some other RPDs, there are no cures, and the progression of symptoms is inevitable, although there may be some treatment to help relieve specific symptoms. Sadly, patients with non-curable forms of RPD may die within months or a few years from onset.

Diagnosing rapidly progressive dementia

RPD can be very difficult to diagnose. But diagnosing it accurately and quickly is essential in order to treat and protect from further brain cell damage. Seeing a specialist doctor can help identify possible causes by looking at the progression, recent exposures such as toxins or recent travel. A detailed history, as well as an analysis of symptoms, will be taken. Various tests can be carried out as well as brain imaging and scans. Cancers, infections, toxins and autoimmune conditions could all cause a fast decline in mental function, as well as the more common neurodegenerative causes of dementia such as Alzheimer’s, strokes and Parkinson’s disease.

Treating rapidly progressive dementia

Treating RPD will depend on the root cause of the condition. For example, if cancer or a hormone imbalance is causing the symptoms of dementia, treatment of the condition may improve symptoms. Sadly, for many people no cure is available. For these people, the emphasis is on treating the symptoms to keep them comfortable and improve their quality of life as much as possible.

How to care for someone with rapidly progressive dementia

As with any form of dementia, ensuring the person’s physical and emotional needs are taken care of. While they are able, keep them involved and let them make their own decisions and choices about what happens in their day-to-day life.

Due to the nature of RPD, it’s important to discuss end-of-life care with them so they have the opportunity to make decisions now about their future.

Caring for someone with RPD can be physically and emotionally challenging, so it’s important to ask for help and take care of yourself too.

Eximius can provide exceptional live-in support for your loved one. Having the day-to-day caring tasks looked after by one of our caring and compassionate companions, leaves you to spend quality time with your loved one.

Please get in touch if you’d like to learn more.

Contact Us