Dementia is a general term for the loss of memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking abilities severe enough to interfere with daily life. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s. Dementia is not a single disease but an overall term covering a wide range of specific medical conditions including Alzheimer’s disease. The disorders coming under the general term ‘dementia’ are caused by abnormal brain changes. These changes trigger a decline in thinking skills or cognitive abilities strong enough to hamper daily life and independent functioning. They affect behavior, feelings and relationships.
Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60-80% of cases. The second most common cause of dementia in the world is Vascular Dementia occurring because of microscopic bleeding and blood vessel blockage in the brain. Some people experience the brain changes of multiple types of dementia and they have mixed dementia. There are many other conditions that lead to the symptom of dementia out of which some are reversible like thyroid problems and vitamin deficiencies.
Dementia is many times incorrectly called ‘senility’ or ‘senile dementia’ which incorrectly states that serious mental deterioration is a normal part of aging.
Fast facts about Dementia
1.Dementia is a syndrome where there is deterioration in memory,thinking,behavior and the ability to do everyday activities.
2.It is not a normal part of ageing although it mainly affects older people.
3.Around 50 million have dementia worldwide and there occur around 10 million new cases every year.
4.Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and may contribute to 60-70% of the cases.
5.Dementia is one of the major causes of disability and dependency among the aged worldwide.
6.Dementia has a physical, psychological, social and economic impact on the careers, families and societies.
Symptoms of dementia
1.Problems with short-term memory.
2.Keeping track of a purse or wallet.
4.Planning and preparing meals.
6.Travelling out of the neighborhood.
The signs of dementia start slowly and then gradually get worse. If someone is having memory issues or other changes in thinking skills they should not be ignored. Medical consultation should be done surely.
Causes of Dementia
Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells. Because of this damage the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other is damaged. When the brain cells cannot communicate normally the ability to think, behave and feel naturally are affected. The brain has many distinct regions each of which is responsible for many functions like memory, judgement and movement. If cells in a particular region are damaged that region cannot carry out it’s functions normally.
Different types of dementia are related with particular types of brain cell damage in particular areas of the brain. For eg, in Alzheimer’s disease high levels of certain proteins inside and outside brain cells make it difficult for brain cells to stay healthy and to communicate with each other. When brain cells cannot communicate normally the thinking, behavior and feelings can be affected. The brain region called the Hippocampus is the center of learning and memory in the brain and the brain cells in this region are often the first to be damaged. So memory loss is one of the earliest symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
Most of the changes in the brain that cause dementia are permanent but the thinking and memory problems may improve when the condition is treated or looked into like—
2.Side effects of medication
3.Excess intake of alcohol
Diagnosis of dementia
There is one test to know if someone has dementia. Doctors diagnose Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are based on a careful examination of medical history, a physical examination, laboratory tests and the characteristic changes in thinking, daily activities etc. Doctors can know that a person has dementia with complete surety but it is hard to know the exact type of dementia because the symptoms and brain changes of different types of dementias can overlap.
Treatment of dementia and care
The treatment of dementia will depend on it’s cause. In the case of most progressive dementias which includes Alzheimer’s disease there is no cure and no treatment that slows or stop it’s progression. But with drug treatments symptoms may improve. And some non-drug therapies can also help to alleviate symptoms of dementia.