Dementia | Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

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Dementia is a group of brain diseases associated with gradual decrease in brain function. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia.

I clearly remember the day when  I went to see my grandfather in the hospital. The sun was shining brightly, the grass never looked greener than before that day. I was just eight and I didn’t exactly know what was going on that day. I went up to my grandfather, he was sitting on a wheel chair and and ran up to him to hug him. But as I reached out for his arms, he went back and asked the nurse to who this girl was. I remember my father taking me out of the ward and keeping me inside the car.

It’s been fifteen years he passed away and as I grew up I came to know that my grandfather suffered dementia. Due to that, he suffered memory loss and he couldn’t recognize me. Yes guys, it breaks my heart, every time I remember the last meeting with my grandfather. Memories aside, today I want to share some of the important facts about dementia that you all should know. Let’s first start with what dementia really is.

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What Is Dementia?

Dementia is a neurocognitive disorder, not a single disease but it encompasses a group of symptoms associated with emotional problems, difficulties with language, loss of consciousness, memory loss, loss of decision making capability and so on.

One of the most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have show that between 60% and 80% of people with dementia have Alzheimer’s. Other common types include vascular dementia (25%), Lewy body dementia (15%), and frontotemporal dementia. Dementia is more common in senile group of people. With increasing age, people are more likely to develop dementia.

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Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms of dementia is different according to its types and stages of diagnosis. However, the most common signs and symptoms include:

  • Memory loss
  • Visual-spatial language and attention problem
  • Lack of problem-solving
  • Balance problems
  • Tremors
  • Trouble eating or swallowing
  • Memory distortions where a patient believes that a memory has already happened when it has not thinking an old memory is a new one
  • Wandering
  • Problems with perception
  • Behavioral and psychological problems like agitation, depression, irritability, apathy, delusions, hallucinations, insomnia and so on.

What Causes Dementia?

There are several causes behind one suffering from dementia. The most common causes of dementia include:

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  • suffering from neuro-degenerative diseases which include Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and some types of multiple sclerosis. These diseases get worse over time.
  • Vascular disorders. These are disorders that affect the blood circulation in your brain.
  • If you’ve been through any traumatic brain injuries due to car accidents, falls, concussions and so on.
  • Due to infectious disease that affects central nervous system like meningitis, HIV, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and so on.
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Long-time alcohol or drug use
  • Certain types of hydrocephalus, a buildup of fluid in the brain or vitamin deficiencies

Dementia Stages

Dementia is a slow disorder and it progresses differently according to different stages. It includes:

  • Mild Dementia characterized by common symptoms like short-term memory loss, changes in personality, getting lost, trouble organizing thoughts
  • Moderate Dementia where it becomes harder for the patient to perform regular daily activities and self-care such as greater memory loss, significant personality and behavior changes, changes in sleep pattern, greater memory loss
  • Severe Dementia where the patient experiences severe mental decline along with physical disabilities like forgetting how to walk, loss of ability to communicate, ability to swallow, immunodeficiency and so on.

Treatment of Dementia

Most of the cases of dementia is not treatable, however, the treatment depends upon the cause of it. In the case of most progressive dementias, including Alzheimer’s disease, there is no cure and no treatment that slows or stops its progression. However, certain medications are prescribed by the doctors to improve the symptoms such as cholinesterase inhibitors which boosts levels of chemical messenger involved in memory and judgement, memantine which also works to boosts the activity of glutamate in the brain functions like memory and cognition. Non-drug therapies like creating calm environment, redirecting person’s attention, acknowledging their requests, understanding their thoughts and so on can also alleviate some symptoms of dementia.

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