What is Dementia? Know its Causes, Symptoms, Prevention, And Much More

Overview | Types | Stages | Causes | Symptoms | Risks | Diagnosis | Treatment | Prevention| Facts

Most people just heard the term  ‘Dementia’. But do we all know what it is? What are its causes, symptoms etc.?

If no, then read further, and let’s know more about it. And if yes, then let me tell you some facts that you might be unaware of.

Let’s us first know what dementia is?

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a broad term that describes a loss of memory, thinking ability, difficulty in word findings, impaired judgment, and other mental abilities. When those parts of our brain, which we use for decision making, memory, language, learning, etc. Gets damaged or diseased, or loss of neurons, then this condition can be referred to as dementia. Here, it should be clear that dementia is not actually a disease, instead, it is a group of symptoms caused by other mental conditions. There are about 50 causes of dementia. In medical terms, dementia is also called a major neurocognitive disorder.

Dementia may affect:

  • Memory
  • Thinking
  • Language
  • Behaviour
  • Management

When mental impairment affect at least two main brain functions only then it is considered as dementia. Dementia is progressive i.e. it gets worse over time. Some dementia is treatable while some are even reversible, depending upon the severity stage.

Types of dementia:

On the basis of the affected part of brain, dementia can be classified into two types —

  • Cortical dementia –  When the damage or disease affects the outer layer of the brain, known as cortex, then this condition refers to cortical dementia. They play a critical role in memory and language. That’s why, people who have such kind of dementia usually suffer memory loss and are unable to remember words or understand language. Alzheimer’s disease is also a kind of cortical dementia.
  • Subcortical dementia: Subcortical dementia occurs when the parts od the brain beneath the cortex get affected by any disease or get damage. It mainly affects the speed of thinking and ability to start any activity. Although, people who have subcortical dementia do not experience forgetfulness and language problems. HIV, Parkinson’s disease are some of the diseases which cause such type of dementia.

Stages of dementia:

There are mainly three stages of dementia—

  • Mild dementia: People with mild dementia may be able to perform their daily tasks independently. Some of its symptoms are –
  • Misplacing things
  • Forgetfulness
  • Short–term memory lapses
  • Personality change may experience depression or anger.
  • Struggles to express emotions
  • Difficulty with complex tasks
  • Difficulty in problem-solving.
  • Moderate dementia: In this stage, people suffering from dementia becomes unable to perform daily tasks and need someone to take care of them. It’s symptoms are –
  • Increased confusion
  • Personality change
  • Frustration
  • Poor judgement
  • Memory loss
  • May need help to perform basic tasks like bathing etc.
  • Severe dementia: At this age, the symptoms and condition of the patient may get worse, and may need someone to take care of y 24 ×7. Symptoms are –
  •  Unable to perform daily functions like walking, swallowing food etc.
  • Inability to control bladder
  • Unable to communicate
  • full–time assistance is a must
  • Increased risk of infections
  • Mild Cognitive impairment:  This is quite common as people experience some sort of forgetfulness with the increase in their age. But in only some cases, it progresses in dementia.

Some other types of dementia are:

  • Lewy body dementia
  • Frontotemporal dementia
  • Mixed dementia

Causes of dementia:

  • Degenerative neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease etc.
  • Traumatic brain injuries caused by any accident, concussions etc.
  • Infections of the central nervous systems like HIV etc.
  • Prolonged use of drugs and alcohol
  • Stroke
  • Brain tumour
  • Vascular dementia is also known as multi-infarct dementia. In this, the brain cells get collapse which prevents the blood flow in the brain. This condition is known as cerebrovascular disease.
  • Prion disease
  • HIV infection

Other disorders linked to dementia:

  • Huntington’s disease
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Down syndrome
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Normal pressure hydrocephalus

Symptoms of dementia:

  • Poor sense of direction
  • Being repetitive
  • Difficulty to adapt changes

    Cognitive changes

  • Noticeable memory loss
  • Difficulty with visual and spatial abilities, such as getting lost while doing some work.
  • Loss of initiative
  • Difficulty in handling or performing complex tasks
  • Difficulty in motor functions
  • Misplacing things
  • Difficulty with coordination
  • Confusion
  • Personality changes
  • Disorientation
  • Difficulty in reasoning and problem solving
  • Difficulty in communication or finding words

   Psychology changes

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Personality changes
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Changed and inappropriate behavior

Other conditions similar to dementia:

  • Infections and immune disorders
  • Medication side effects
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Metabolic problems
  • Normal pressure hydrocephalus
  • Endocrine abnormalities
  • Anoxia
  • Poisoning
  • Brain tumours

Risks factors:

  • Age
  • Genetics
  • Family history of dementia
  • Poor nutrition
  • Pneumonia
  • Prolonged and heavy consumption of alcohol
  • Depression
  • Hypertension
  • Sleep apnea
  • Down syndrome
  • Personal safety challenges
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Deficiency of nutrients and vitamins
  • Physical inactivity
  • Death
  • Smoking

Diagnosis:

There is not any particular test to diagnose dementia. It is a group of test like physical examination, laboratory test, critical thinking test etc. Which are used to diagnose dementia. Diagnosis of dementia involves some test, such as –

  • Cognitive dementia test
  • Mini-mental state examination

Since dead brain cells can not be alive, so degenerative dementia can’t be cured completely.

Drugs can be used ( only after prescribed by any specialist) :

  • Donepezil
  • Galantamine
  • Tacrine
  • Rivastigmine
  • Memantine

Treatment of dementia:

Currently, there is no treatment available that can cure dementia fully.

Prevention tips:

  • Quit smoking
  • Avoid alcohol consumption
  • Keep your cholesterol level under control
  • Manage cardiovascular risk factors
  • Maintain healthy diet
  • High level of homocysteine
  • Get quality sleep
  •  Keep your sugar level under control
  • Don’t avoid any type of symptoms
  • Keep your mind and body active
  • Be socially active to avoid mental issues like depression etc.
  • Make sure the intake of nutrition and vitamins.
  • Dementia patients must go for such therapies which can help them to modify their environment, common tasks etc. Such as talk therapy or occupational therapy.

Although, there is no permanent cure for dementia, by adopting all these points one can at least have some good impact on their lives and may it can slow down the speed of memory loss.

Some facts about dementia:

  • Globally, there are about 50 million cases of dementia, which is increasing by 10 million cases every year.
  • Among all dementia affected individuals, about 60 – 70 % of cases are of Alzheimer’s disease only.
  • About 5 – 8 % of adults over 65 years are having some form of dementia.
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