People with dementia have various symptoms of cognitive decline, like forgetfulness. There are multiple underlying causes for dementia.
A person with dementia suffers from symptoms such as memory loss, communication difficulties and difficulty thinking. Dementia is not a normal part of aging, even though its likelihood increases with age.
Causes and types of dementia include:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Vascular dementia
- Lewy body dementia, which may occur with Parkinson’s disease
- Frontotemporal dementia
- Mixed dementia
Dementias related to Alzheimer’s disease may also be referred to as Alzheimer’s disease.
A discussion of dementia’s causes, the different types, and any treatments is provided in this article.
The symptoms of dementia are dependent on the person’s type, but they typically include:
- Memory problems
- Repeating questions
- Inability to understand words
- An uneasy feeling when in an unfamiliar setting
- Financial difficulties
- Anxiety and withdrawal
- Inability to plan and accomplish tasks
- Mood swings
- Personality and behavioral changes
- Sleep disturbances
- Unsuitable jokes
- Obsessive tendencies
Symptoms usually intensify over time. Some of the symptoms may be noticed by the person themselves, but others may be noticed by their family or caregivers.
Dementia is generally categorized into three stages by the World Health Organization (WHO). Below are descriptions of each stage.
The symptoms of dementia may not be apparent at this point. They may include:
- Become more forgetful
- Lose track of time
- Lose track of where you are
Symptoms are more noticeable at this stage and include:
- Forgetting recent events and names
- Getting lost while at home
- Communication problems
- Behavioral changes
- Asking the same questions repeatedly
- Asking for help with daily tasks
An individual requires full-time assistance at this stage because symptoms typically become more severe. Symptoms include:
- They may not know where they are
- They may not be aware of the time
- They may not be able to recognize loved ones
- It may be difficult for them to walk
- They may show aggressive behavior
There are many types of dementia. Some of them are listed below.
Dementia is most commonly caused by Alzheimer’s disease, accounting for 70–80% of known cases. The brain develops plaques and tangles due to Alzheimer’s disease. Proteins are altered in both cases.
It may be difficult for a person to focus, find words and make decisions, and it may be difficult to see things in three dimensions.
Lewy body dementia
Dementia caused by Lewy bodies occurs when abnormal structures develop in the brain. A protein called alpha-synuclein is responsible for these changes in the brain.
A person may experience fluctuating alertness, hallucinations, and trouble judging distance in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. It may take less time for short-term memory to be affected than it would be with Alzheimer’s disease.
It is thought that Parkinson’s sufferers may also suffer from Lewy bodies. Though doctors often classify Parkinson’s disease as a movement disorder, the condition can also cause dementia-related symptoms.
This disorder causes damage to the brain in the front and sides. Protein clumps develop inside brain cells, causing the cells to die.
It depends on which part of the brain is affected whether the individual has difficulty with behavior, speech or communication.
This condition is inherited from a parent. It is characterized by uncontrolled movements and may also lead to dementia.
Initially, people may experience difficulty concentrating, irritability and impulsivity. Depressive symptoms are common as well. It’s likely that the person will have difficulty planning, organizing and multitasking. Movement changes may precede these symptoms.
People who receive a diagnosis of two or three types simultaneously are said to have a multi-type diagnosis. An example would be a person who is suffering from both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia at the same time.
Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by early symptoms such as:
- Mood swings
- Anxiety, anger or depression
- Trouble finding the right words
- Repetition of words or actions
- Inability to follow a storyline
- Inability to complete daily tasks
- An inability to follow directions
- Inability to adapt to changes
- Leaving things out of the ordinary
In dementia, brain cells and neurons die over time, as in Alzheimer’s disease. Over time, it gets worse.
However, other causes of dementia include head injuries, strokes, brain tumors and others. For instance, a stroke can result in the blocking of blood and oxygen from reaching brain cells, which results in cell death. Indirect damage to the brain can also cause cell death.
There is some evidence that certain types of traumatic brain injuries – especially repetitive injuries, such as those sustained in sports – increase the risk of developing dementia later in life.
Other conditions and factors that may cause similar symptoms include:
- Some drugs are used
- Some infections, including HIV and Neurosyphilis
- Vitamin B12 or E deficiency
- Thyroid problems
Assessments usually include a variety of tasks and questions. These will be discussed in the following sections.
Cognitive dementia tests
Doctors currently use dementia tests that were established by experts in the 1970s. Questions may include:
- How old are you?
- What time is it, to the nearest hour?
- Where do you live?
- What year is it?
- What is your birthdate?
Observations by family members and caregivers may also be taken into account by the doctor.
Doctors may suggest extra tests and a CT brain scan if the results suggest memory loss so that they can investigate further and rule out other possibilities.
Mini-mental state examinations, which have also been around since the 1970s, measure:
- Time and place orientation
- Word recall
- Language abilities
- Attention and calculation
- Visuospatial skills
Diagnoses of dementia caused by Alzheimer’s can be made with this test. Furthermore, it can be used to assess how severe the addiction is and whether drug treatment is necessary.
Alternatively, the doctor may perform a test called the Mini-Cog. The steps are as follows:
- The doctor will ask the patient to repeat three words from a specific set, such as “banana,” “sunrise,” and “chair.” They will have three chances to repeat these words.
- The doctor will ask the patient to draw a clock face, fill in the numbers, and set the hands to a certain time if they cannot do this. This should be completed within three minutes.
- The doctor will ask the patient if they can recall and repeat the three words from the first task if they are unable to complete it in time.
It will be possible to earn up to 10 points. Doctors may consider dementia as a diagnosis if someone scores less than 3-4 points.
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It is not currently possible to reverse the death of brain cells for most types of dementia. Some treatments may be able to manage symptoms.
Alzheimer’s disease symptoms may be reduced by some medications. The United States has approved cholinesterase inhibitors, known as cholinesterase inhibitors. Here they are:
- Donepezil (Aricept)
- Galantamine (Reminyl)
- Rivastigmine (Exelon)
Parkinson’s disease symptoms can also be managed with Cholinesterase inhibitors.
The NMDA receptor antagonist memantine (Namenda) can also be used alone or in combination with a cholinesterase inhibitor.
A deficiency in vitamins or medication, or an injury could contribute to the symptoms.
Other forms of care
A person may be able to improve their quality of life by following the following lifestyle strategies:
- Maintains a healthy diet
- Exercises regularly
- Keeps all appointments with the doctor
- Takes prescribed medication as directed
- Sleeps regularly
- Lives in a safe environment
- Relies on family and caregivers to meet his or her needs
Dementia cannot be prevented in most cases. According to the WHO, the following habits can reduce the risk:
- Regular exercise
- Avoiding smoking
- Reducing alcohol consumption
- Keeping a healthy weight
- Consuming a healthy diet
- It is important to seek treatment for conditions such as hypertension, high cholesterol and high sugar levels
It may also reduce the risk of repeated head injuries in contact sports, which could increase dementia risk.
Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by memory, thinking and behavioral problems. This is a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease and is often seen in movement disorders such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease.
Currently, there is no cure for these symptoms. A person may eventually need full-time assistance if they continue taking some drugs to manage their symptoms.