What is Dementia?
People are often confused when it comes to dementia and Alzheimer’s. Unlike Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, dementia is not a specific disease. There are a wide range of conditions that can cause dementia, Alzheimer’s being the most common. To better understand this set of symptoms, let’s examine what dementia is and how it relates to neurological functioning.
What Exactly is Dementia?
As mentioned, dementia is a set of symptoms that are linked to disorders and their negative effects on the brain. Since dementia is progressive in nature, symptoms that develop will gradually become worse, causing brain cells to die. Since dementia is not a disease itself, it is linked to anything from head trauma to Huntington’s disease.
For those that suffer from dementia, they exhibit at least two impaired brain functions, such as memory loss and impaired judgment. Although many link memory loss to dementia, memory loss alone does not mean that you will develop this umbrella of symptoms. Remember, as you age, some degree of memory loss is normal.
Symptoms of Dementia
Since dementia can be caused by such a wide range of conditions and ailments, symptoms widely vary. Symptoms are typically experienced in terms of psychological well-being and cognition. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Memory loss
- Difficulty communicating
- Struggling with complex tasks
- Difficulty planning
- Loss of motor functions
- Personality changes
- Increased inappropriate behavior
- Paranoia and hallucinations
- Lack of reasoning
These symptoms develop due to damaged nerve cells in the brain. Dementia is classified in a variety of ways, often grouped based on the area of the brain that’s affected or whether the condition is progressive, such as in cases of Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, and Lewy body dementia. These cannot be reversed and symptoms will progressively get worse over time.
In some cases, however, dementia-like conditions can be treated and reversed. This occurs in cases where infections or immune disorders lead to cognitive decline, as well as nutritional deficiencies, and reactions to medications.
Common Risks Factors
There are risk factors that can be controlled and some that cannot. Risk factors you can’t change include:
- Being diagnosed with down syndrome
Factors you can control include:
- Alcohol use
- High blood pressure
- Atherosclerosis (plaque in the artery walls)
- High cholesterol
In most cases, dementia cannot be cured. The majority of patients are provided treatment plans that maximize their quality of life and help minimize specific symptoms. Patients are generally presented with a mixture of both medical and therapy options, however, each case is unique.
MacGill, M. (2015). Dementia: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments. Medical News Today. Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/142214.php.