What is Dementia? Symptoms, Causes & Treatment
Dementia is used to refer to chronic mental disorders that include loss of language, problem-solving, memory, reasoning, and other cognitive abilities. Before moving ahead with understanding the intricacies of dementia, one must understand that the term dementia refers to the state of a person’s mental condition and not a particular disease or a specific disorder. It is a syndrome that persistently erodes one’s cognitive abilities beyond what is considered normal for the usual consequence of aging biologically. As per the World Health Organization report dated 2 September 2021, there are more than 55 million people combatting dementia across the world and there are more than 10 million new cases adding up every year.
Dementia remains one of the major reasons for disability and is the seventh largest cause of death across the world. The blog endeavors to answer what is dementia, record the dementia symptoms and the early signs, dementia causes, and the treatment options available to handle dementia.
Dementia is an extensive term used to refer to a mental condition. It could be loss of memory, thinking and reasoning abilities, attention disorders, and other forms of cognitive disabilities. The primary reason for dementia is the damage that incurs to the parts of the brain that are dedicated to learning, memory, decision marking, language comprehension, or problem-solving.
Studies suggest that about 5% - 8% of adults living above the age of 65 have dementia in some form. This rate doubles after the data are accounted for the age above 65. At least half of the population living in the age group of 80 and above have dementia. Dementia exists in several forms. Though it is common among people in old age, it is not an attribute of biological aging. Dementia is a deviation and distortion from how biological aging usually happens. Having learned what is dementia, let’s move ahead to understand dementia causes and dementia symptoms.
Dementia incurs when a nerve cell in the brain losses its connection with other cells, and the healthy neuron stops functioning. It is common that people experience loss of connections as we age, but in dementia, the severity and impact are on the greater side.
Symptoms of dementia differ from one person to another. They also depend on a person's health condition, lifestyle, food and sleeping patterns, underlying conditions, and cognitive functioning of the person. Depending on the severity of the disorder,
The onset of Dementia is very gradual and it does not happen instantly. The common symptoms in the early stages or in other words, the early signs of dementia include,
- Forgetting things and places
- Missing out places, routes, and directions.
- Losing out track of time
- Getting lost in places.
- Forgetting where they kept things
People tend to confuse the signs of dementia with signs of biological aging. Family members and caretakers ignore these early signs of dementia essentially because their onset is slow and extremely gradual.
As the symptoms progress and dementia enters the mid stage, the signs of dementia become visible and prominently noticeable. The common symptoms include the following.
- Getting confused quite often
- Requiring help in executing personal activities
- Forgetting the recipe as they cook
- Experience difficulties in communicating their requirements
- Not knowing the days and months
- Finding it hard to take care of oneself
- Losing track of finances and bills.
- Wandering without a reason.
- Forgetting what the person in front says during a conversation.
In the advanced stages of dementia, the symptoms become predominant and severe. In this stage, the affected person becomes wholly dependent on others to execute their day-to-day activities and there is persistent inactivity.
The signs of dementia and symptoms in this stage include the following:
- Experiencing difficulty in remembering or failing to identify friends and close family members.
- Enduring difficulties in walking and standing
- Repeating tasks, say bathing again and again because they tend to forget that they had already bathed.
- Difficulties in handling finances- giving away money to people whom they don’t even know.
- Decreasing motor abilities and functions.
- Forgetting names of people and losing count of numbers
- Some people may experience depression and anxiety
- Hallucinations and illusionary fear are also common in the advanced stages of dementia.
- Repeatedly asking the same question over and over again
- Losing physical and mental balance
- Inability to move and confinement to bed.
- Appetite and loss of weight.
- Some people lose ability to speak and communicate.
As mentioned earlier, dementia causes include damage caused to nerve cells or loss of connections to the brain. Based on the type of nerve cell that is impacted and the function it was executing, dementia carries different levels of complexity and can display different signs and dementia symptoms of cognitive disabilities.
Dementia is generally classified into three groups.
Primary dementia includes those conditions where dementia remains the primary form of illness.
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Vascular dementia
- Frontotemporal dementia
- Lewy body dementia
- Mixed dementia
Secondary dementia covers the cognitive disabilities that result due to an underlying disease or condition. They include
- Huntington’s disease
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome
- Parkinson’s disease
- HIV-associated dementia
Some illnesses produce dementia-like symptoms and signs and these conditions can be halted with proper dementia treatment.
- Vitamin deficiency
- Side effects of medications
- Normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH)
- Brain tumors
- Endocrine disorders
Diagnosis of dementia involves careful observation of the symptoms, underlying conditions, medical history, and behavioral changes. You may be asked the following questions to offer a proper dementia treatment.
- Your age as people older than 65 years of age is increasingly vulnerable to dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
- Your medical history
- Your ongoing course of medications
- Symptoms and signs
- Family history of dementia is also genetic.
Even though your physician may be able to diagnose that a person is suffering from dementia, they may find it difficult to classify the type. You may be required to consult a neurologist or a psychologist who would advise you to take up a neurocognitive test, a laboratory test, or an imaging test so as to devise an effective dementia treatment.
Most forms of dementia are treatable and a combination of drugs and counseling sessions shall help manage the symptoms. Drugs could slow down the progression of the disease.
ReThough dementia cannot be prevented wholly, taking precautionary steps may help reduce the risk of complications.
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle
- Following a healthy diet
- Having a fitness routine
- Taking up cardiovascular training
- Refraining from tobacco, drugs, and alcohol
- Engage your brain in mental activities
- Keep your mind engaged by conversing with people, friends, and family
- Do not feel alone or neglected
- Having a quality sleep cycle
If your loved one or friend is experiencing dementia and is looking for dementia treatment, you may consider Abhasa Rehabilitation Center, the leading rehabilitation center in India. Always remember that diagnosing the onset early might help you make meaningful plans for your loved one and the family, and help manage the complications at ease. A combination of drugs and counseling therapies for both- the patient and their family reduces the level of complication.