Dementia: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment
Dementia: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment
Dementia is a condition that is described as a decrease in brain function. To have dementia, your brain function needs to become deficient in at least two areas. The facets of brain activity that may be affected by dementia are thinking, memory, judgment, behavior and language. Besides this, dementia is not a disease, but a condition caused by another illness or injury.
Some types of dementia are progressive and can get worse over time. The condition can result in mild to severe mental impairment. However, some types are treatable or reversible if you get the right kind of medical help early.
Types of Dementia
There are four main types of dementia-
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. For most people, the first signs of Alzheimer's are problems with memory, perception, thinking or language.
Vascular dementia is the second most frequent type of dementia. Common early signs of vascular dementia include problems with planning or organizing, decision making, or problem solving.
Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB)-
Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is mainly caused by Lewy body disease. Symptoms of DLB include difficulty concentrating, delusions, and problems with movement and sleep. It is closely related to Parkinson's disease.
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD)-
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is one of the least common types of dementia. It is sometimes referred to as Pick's disease or frontal lobe dementia.
Common symptoms of FTD include changes in personality and behavior and/or language difficulties.
It is said to be a combination of two or more types of dementia. Alzheimer's disease with vascular dementia is the most common combination. It is most common in people of s80 years and older.
Causes of Dementia
Dementia occurs due to the degeneration of neurons in the brain. Neurons are cells that carry messages from the brain and spinal cord in the form of impulses.
The degeneration can occur due to several reasons including diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Neurodegenerative diseases responsible for dementia include-
- Damage caused by chronic alcoholism.
- Vascular dementia.
- Infections of the brain.
- Tumors inside the brain.
Other possible causes for dementia are-
1. Metabolic disorders such as-
- Vitamin B12 deficiency.
- Liver disorders.
2. Structural brain disorders such as subdural hematoma.
3. Exposure to toxins such as lead.
Risk factors of Dementia
Factors that can increase your chances of developing dementia include-
- High blood pressure.
- Physical inactivity.
- Drinking too much alcohol.
- Hearing loss.
- Poor diet.
Symptoms of Dementia
Symptoms of dementia depend on the stage you are experiencing.
Mild dementia symptoms include-
- Personality changes.
- Feeling angry frequently.
- Difficulty in problem solving.
- Short term memory lapses.
- Struggling to express ideas or emotions.
Moderate dementia symptoms are more serious and might require help from others to deal with. They include-
- Poor judgment.
- Significant personality and mood changes.
- Significantly large memory loss.
- Increased frustration and confusion.
- Inability to perform simple tasks such as bathing.
Mental faculties continue to decline in severe dementia, leading to symptoms such as-
- Inability to communicate.
- Inability to perform regular body functions.
- Greater risk of infections.
- Requiring help for all kinds of daily activities.
Prevention for Dementia
Certain measures may help to lower the risk of dementia-
- Regularly exercising.
- Avoiding smoking.
- Consuming a healthy diet.
- Maintaining a moderate weight.
- Seek treatment for conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar.
- Limiting alcohol consumption.
- Wearing a protective cap for contact sports can also reduce the risk of recurrent head injury, which can be a risk factor for dementia.
Treatment for Dementia
Treating dementia typically means making symptoms easier to live with by making them less harmful. Dementia treatment is not designed as a cure but as a way of managing the condition. Treatment include-
Medications such as memantine and cholinesterase inhibitors are common in Alzheimer’s treatment. These help patients slow down the progression of the disease and maintain mental function for a while longer.
Other treatments include changing your lifestyle to better manage dementia-
- Reduce clutter in your environment to improve focus.
- Modify common tasks into something more manageable.
- Take part in occupational therapy.
When to see a doctor?
If you suspect you or your family member has signs and symptoms of dementia, you should see a dementia specialist.