What is dementia?
Dementia is not a critical disease, but it is a general term for a weakened ability to remember, think, or make decisions that interfere with daily activities. Alzheimer’s disease is the usual common type of dementia. Although dementia mainly affects the elderly, it is not part of normal aging.
Defects grouped under this disease are caused by abnormal brain changes. These changes trigger a decline in thinking skills, also known as cognitive skills, which can be severe enough to affect daily life and independent functioning. They also affect behavior, feelings, and relationships.
Who gets dementia?
It is considered a disease of old age because it is more common in the elderly. Five to eight percent of people over the age of 65 suffer from some form of dementia, and this age doubles every five years. It is estimated that half of the people aged 85 and over have this disease.
Types of dementia
There are several types of dementia, including:
- Alzheimer’s disease: It is described by “plaques” between dying cells in the brain and “tangles” in cells (both due to protein abnormalities). The brain tissue of a person with Alzheimer’s gradually has fewer nerve cells and connections, and the overall size of the brain decreases.
- Dementia with Lewy bodies: It represents 5 to 15% of all cases of dementia and can occur alone or in combination with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. This occurs when abnormal protein deposits (Lewy bodies) affect an area of the brain that promotes thought and physical movements. In particular, Lewy bodies disrupt brain messages to the body.
- Mixed dementia: It is a condition in which someone suffers from two types of dementia. The usual basic combination is Alzheimer’s disease with vascular dementia.
- Vascular dementia: Every stroke or vascular accident can cause brain damage and tissue damage. Therefore, after a minor crisis, symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s appear, in particular, memory impairment, poor decision-making, and difficulty in planning.
- Parkinson’s disease: It is also marked by the presence of Lewy bodies. Although Parkinson’s is often considered a movement disorder, it can also lead to dementia symptoms.
- Huntington’s disease: It is characterized by certain types of uncontrolled movements, but also dementia.
Causes of dementia
Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells. Brain diseases like Alzheimer’s can cause this condition. A brain tumor, head injury, or stroke can cause this condition. There are several causes of this disease:
- Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disease that causes abnormal changes that destroy brain cells
- Blockages in the blood vessels of the brain restrict blood flow to parts of the brain or trigger mini-strokes. These cause a type of vascular dementia called multiple infarct dementia.
- Other diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, affect mobility and later mental abilities and mood
- Serious head injuries
- Some brain tumors
- Heavy drinking for more than 10 years
- An overactive or underactive thyroid gland
- Insufficient vitamin B12 levels
- Several brain infections, including disease with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS)
- Exposure to some drugs, and reactions to combinations of drugs
Age: The strongest risk factor for this disease increases with age, and most cases affect people 65 and older.
Family history: People with parents or siblings with senility are more likely to have senility.
Race/ethnicity: Older African Americans are twice as likely as whites to have senility. Hispanics are 1.5 times more likely to have this condition than whites.
Poor heart health: High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking addiction is the risk of this disease if not treated correctly.
Traumatic brain injury: Head injuries raise the risk of this disease, particularly if it occurs severely or repeatedly.
Symptoms of dementia
Symptoms can vary depending on the parts of the brain affected. There are some common symptoms, which include:
- Memory loss
- Impaired judgment
- Difficulties with abstract thinking
- Faulty reasoning
- Inappropriate behavior
- Loss of communication skills
- Disorientation to time and place
- Gait, motor, and balance problems
- Neglect of personal care and safety
- Hallucinations, paranoia, agitation
Diagnosis of dementia
There is no test to decide if someone has senility. Doctors carefully diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and other types of this disease based on medical history, physical examination, laboratory tests, and symptoms of each type of thinking, daily functioning, and behavior.
Doctors can diagnose this condition with a big degree of belief. But maintaining the exact type of this disease is difficult because of the symptoms and brain changes of different dementias overlay. In some cases, a doctor can diagnose and not specify a type. If this happens, it may be necessary to consult a specialist, such as a neurologist.
Treatment for dementia
There is no cure for degenerative or invariable dementia, so medical treatments focus on improving a person’s cognitive and functional abilities. Specific treatments for this disease vary depending on the cause of senility. Medications are available for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and Lewy body disease, for example, to reduce the rate of deterioration and improve memory function.
Some medications can reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. There are four drugs, called cholinesterase inhibitors, recommended for use in the U.S.:
- Donepezil (brand name Aricept)
- Galantamine (Reminyl)
- Rivastigmine (Exelon)
- Tacrine (Cognex)
For patients with Alzheimer’s disease, a new drug has also been developed that inhibits the production of chemicals that contribute to memory loss. Treatment of vascular dementia involves controlling risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Additional medications are available to treat other symptoms associated with this condition, including behavioral symptoms such as sleep disturbances, movement problems, depression, or irritability, or anxiety. Since treatments vary depending on the cause of this condition, an accurate diagnosis is crucial.
Some risk factors are associated with senility. However, age is the largest estimate. Other risk factors:
- Don’t smoke
- Stay at a healthy weight
- Get plenty of exercises
- Eat healthy food
- Maintain health problems including diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol
- Stay mentally quick by acquiring new hobbies, reading, or solving crossword puzzles
- Stay involved socially. Attend community activities, church, or support groups
- If your doctor recommends it, take aspirin
Complications may include:
- Loss of prior ability to function or care for yourself
- Loss of prior ability to communicate with others.
- Reduced service life
- Increased infections in the body
- Forget recent events or conversations
- Difficulty performing more than one task at a time.
- Difficulty solving problems.
- It takes more time to do more difficult activities.
- Language problems such as difficulty finding the names of known objects
- Place objects incorrectly
- Losing in familiar ways
Departments to consult for this condition
- Department of Neurology