Contributed by: Abshar Faheem
Dementia is a word we give to a collection of symptoms affecting different perspectives of thinking and brain function that become more grave over time and affect the way we live our lives. Dementia generally occurs in older adults and it is not a normal part of aging. The normal part of aging includes weakening of muscles and bones but in dementia, people experience forgetfulness and mental impairments.
It is a decline of cognitive functions affecting at least two brain functions such as memory and language. In simple words, It is a syndrome in which there is decay in memory, thinking, behavior, making decisions, and ability to perform daily activities. It is not a disease per say but may be caused due to a variety of illnesses and injuries. Dementia has a physical, economic, social, and psychological impact not only on people with dementia but also on their families, and society at large.
Dementia occurs when a section of your brain used for learning, building memories, decision making, and language gets damaged or diseased. The nerve cells and their connections in the brain get damaged which affects people’s behavior. There are 50 plus causes of dementia but the following are some of the most common ones:
- Dementia occurs when a person experiences degenerative neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and some types of multiple sclerosis. Such diseases are progressive and get worse with time.
- Dementia occurs when blood circulation in the brain gets affected due to vascular disorders.
- Some brain injuries occurred due to car accidents, falls, concussions, etc. can also lead to dementia.
- Infections such as HIV causes dementia.
- Medication side effects
- Certain tumors or infections of the brain
- Frontotemporal dementia
- Supranuclear palsy
- Corticobasal degeneration
- Metabolic disorders such as kidney and liver disorders
- Drinking alcohol and using drugs for a longer period may lead to dementia.
Signs & Symptoms
Dementia is an umbrella term that contains multiple causes so its signs and symptoms may differ from person to person. The signs and symptoms include:
- Issues with memory, attention, communication, problem-solving, judgment, and visual perception.
- Getting lost in familiar places
- Lose track of time
- Forgetting recent events and people’s names
- Getting lost at even at familiar places, such as home
- Repetition of questions and sentences
- Problems in recognizing friends and relatives
- Difficulty in walking
- Loss of interest
- Problem with completing everyday tasks
Brain cells die in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s that cannot be reversed and cured. There is no treatment available to cure dementia or change its progressive course, although, certain medications can help manage the severity of the disease by protecting the brain from behavioral changes and anxiety. However, some 20% of all dementia cases can be cured by treating the reasons that might have caused it. These treatable conditions include HIV, blood sugar, alcoholism, tumors, etc. Certain strategies can also be helpful in managing dementia if it occurs due to manageable causes. Those strategies include:
- Stop smoking
- Keep a healthy weight
- Regular exercising
- Balanced diet
- Control diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol
- Be mentally alert by learning new hobbies
- Keep socially connected
- Stop drinking alcohol
The bottom line
Early diagnosis can be helpful to manage signs and symptoms. Age is the major risk factor of dementia other than depression, poor diet, and heavy alcohol use along with any family history of dementia.