The Newly Discovered Four Types of Alzheimer’s Disease and How They Impact Patients

happy Alzheimer's senior mother and adult daughter
Call on Golden Harmony, top home care provider of Alzheimer’s disease care services in Raleigh and nearby areas.

For many years, experts have been examining the advancement of Alzheimer’s through a single basic model, even though not all Alzheimer’s diagnoses present with the same symptoms and progression.

However now, a new, collaborative study between the US, Sweden, Canada, and Korea is uncovering some interesting information to help us better understand and treat Alzheimer’s. Rather than one universal, dominant diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, researchers have discovered that there are four separate variants that occur in as many as 18 – 30% of cases. This change in thinking is helping researchers more fully 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.

The research study looked at data from over 1,600 individuals, identifying over 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 distinct subgroups:

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

Oskar Hansson, professor of neurology at Lund University and supervisor of the study, explains next 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 form of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease an older adult has, Golden Harmony’s caregivers receive extensive training in helping manage any challenges while concentrating on his or her strengths. Contact us online or call us at 919-426-7522 and learn more about our Alzheimer’s care services in Raleigh and other nearby areas. For more details on all of the areas we serve outside of Raleigh in North Carolina, please visit our Communities Served page.

increase freedom while aging at home