What is Dementia?
A deterioration in cognitive function that impacts memory, intellectual, language, thinking process, and behaviour is referred to as dementia in general. It is a chronic illness that worsens with time and can significantly influence the lives of persons who have it as well as those of their relatives and caregivers. Confusion, memory loss, changes in mood or behaviour, and communication difficulties are all possible signs of dementia. As the illness worsens, people may need assistance with simple chores and have trouble with daily activities like getting dressed and taking a shower.
Dementia does not yet have a known cure, however, there are numerous treatments that can help control the signs and symptoms. These include non-pharmacological therapies like occupational therapy and speech therapy as well as medications that can aid with memory and cognitive function. A proper care plan, which may include assistance from a community health nurse, occupational therapist, and social worker, is also crucial for the suffering persons.
Caregivers of persons with dementia may endure difficulties and stress as a result. A strong support structure should be in place, including therapy and support groups. Mostly the problem occurs in elder people
Diagnosis of dementia
Dementia diagnosis may be a difficult procedure that requires several evaluations and testing. Beginning with a complete medical and neurological history and physical examination, a healthcare professional like a neurologist or geriatrician is common. To evaluate a person’s memory, thinking, and other cognitive abilities, they may also administer cognitive and neuropsychological tests.
Here are some tests that may be used to help diagnose dementia:
- Test of Mental Status: This test evaluates a person’s memory, focus, language, and other cognitive skills.
- Brain imaging: This includes procedures like CT or MRI scans, which can assist in identifying any structural alterations in the brain that can be related to dementia.
- Blood tests: By excluding other potential reasons for cognitive impairment such as thyroid issues, vitamin shortages, or anaemia, blood tests can assist.
- Neuropsychological testing: This procedure can assist identify a person’s abilities in terms of memory, attention, and problem-solving, as well as their weaknesses.
- Lumbar Puncture: The fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord can be tested using a lumbar puncture, commonly referred to as a spinal tap, to look for any aberrant proteins.
- Genetic testing: To determine if a person has a genetic condition that can lead to dementia, genetic testing may be performed.
It’s crucial to understand that no one test can definitively rule out dementia; instead, a healthcare provider will frequently combine test findings with additional data before reaching a determination.
Types of dementia
There are several types of dementia, each with its own set of signs and symptoms. Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for almost 60 to 80% of total cases of dementia, is the most prevalent kind of dementia. Here are some other types of dementia which occurs in rare cases:
- Vascular dementia: Dementia of the vascular kind is brought on by damage to the blood arteries supplying the brain, sometimes as a consequence of a stroke. It is characterised by issues with decision-making, memory, and attention.
- Dementia caused by Lewy bodies: These aberrant protein deposits in the brain are what lead to Lewy body dementia. Visual hallucinations, variations in cognitive function, memory, attention, and mobility issues are some of its symptoms.
- Frontotemporal Dementia: Deterioration of the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain leads to this type of dementia. Changes in personality, conduct, and language are its defining characteristics.
- Huntington’s dementia: This uncommon hereditary illness results in the gradual degeneration of brain nerve cells. Movement issues, difficulties with cognitive function, and mental symptoms are its defining characteristics.
Causes of dementia
In most cases, dementia is caused by damage to the brain which directly impacts the efficiency of an individual’s cognitive abilities. The specific causes of dementia can vary depending on the above-mentioned type of dementia and can include a mishmash of environmental, genetic, and lifestyle factors. The most widespread causes of dementia include:
- Alzheimer’s disease: This is considered the most known cause of dementia and is characterised by the gradual development of plaques and tangles in the brain, which disrupts the normal function of nerve cells. The exact reason of Alzheimer’s disease is not yet gathered by scientists and doctors but it thought to be linked with the combination of various factors including lifestyle and genetic factors. There are certain genetic mutations such as the apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene that can increase the risk of rising Alzheimer’s disease along with other factors such as exposure to certain toxins and pollutants, smoking, poor diet, head injury, age factors, and many more.
- Vascular dementia: Hypertension, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, high cholesterol, and Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) are some of the factors that can cause vascular dementia.
- Lewy body dementia (LBD): Accurate grounds for this type of dementia is not known but it is thought to be related to the factors such as increasing age, genetic mutations, and environmental factors. In addition to that, LBD is closely related to Parkinson’s disease, which is caused by the disintegration of nerve cells in the brain that produce dopamine.
- Frontotemporal dementia: This progressive disorder mostly occurs in people between the ages of 45 and 65 due to genetic and environmental factors. Chronic inflammation in the brain has been also linked with this type of dementia.
- Huntington’s disease: The type of Huntington’s dementia is caused by a genetic disorder that is passed down from parent to child. It is caused by a mutation in the huntingtin gene, which leads to the production of an abnormal form of the huntingtin protein. This abnormal protein harms nerve cells in the brain leading to the development of Huntington’s disease which further results in dementia.
Please note: Advice and opinions in this article are not that of Medicine Drop. You should always consult your pharmacist or GP directly should you have any health related questions or concerns.