dementia

Dementia: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and More

Dementia

Dementia is not only a single disease or disorder; it’s a broad term like language, problem-solving, memory loss, and other thinking abilities that can interfere in your daily life. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease.

Abnormal brain changes cause the general term dementia. These abnormal changes can trigger a decline in thinking skills, also called cognitive abilities, severe enough to impair daily life functions. It also affects behavior, relationship, and feeling. Dementia is a sign of progressive neurodegeneration. It causes tissue loss and the death of brain cells.

Types of dementia

There are five different types of dementia;

1. Alzheimer’s disease

It is the most common and most known type of dementia. Alzheimer’s is due to abnormal shrinkage of the brain. It affects all brain functions and causes notable changes in behavior and personal relationships. The first sign of this disorder/disease is difficulty in remembering things.

For example, you forget the day, the place, or the events.

2. Dementia with Lewy bodies

This kind of dementia is similar to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, such as stiffness and tremors. It appears with visual hallucination and sleeping disorders.

3. Vascular dementia

Stroke and vascular accidents cause damage to the brain and tissue loss. Alzheimer-like symptoms occur, such as making bad decisions, memory disorder, and difficulty in planning.

4. Frontotemporal dementia

In this dementia, neurodegeneration affects the temporal and frontal lobes of the brain, which causes many significant changes in personality and behavior. The affected person can feel difficulty in language, difficulty in moving, and memory loss. Symptoms appear around/after 60 years.

5. Mixed dementia

In this dementia, the person is affected by two types of dementia.

For example, the typical combination is Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.

Stages of dementia

There are 7 stages of dementia. Including;

1. Normal behavior

In the early stage of dementia, you may experience no symptoms.

2. Forgetfulness

In this stage of dementia, people might forget things easily. You cannot distinguish memory loss from average age.

3. Mild decline

As this stage of dementia progresses, you may notice the changes in the brain that are already occurring. They might be forgetting things frequently. This stage can run many years and last up to seven years.

4. Moderate decline

In this stage of dementia, signs and symptoms become apparent. You may feel difficulty finding something, like money or paying bills, and forget what you had for breakfast. This stage can end up to two years.

5. Moderately severe decline

During this late stage of dementia, a person needs more attention day-to-day. People have difficulty remembering their things, like their phone number and address.  However, they recognize their family members and friends; they can recall their childhood. This stage can last up to 1.5 years.

6. Severe decline

In this stage, a person needs full attention all time. They also need help in dressing and washing. You may notice changes in their behavior and personality—a person’s mood changes such as aggression and anger, which can be challenging to cope with and upsetting. But they still recognize their loved ones. Experts say that this stage can last up to 2.5 years.

7. Very severe decline

Many people can pass away before reaching the final or last stage of dementia. They will experience severe speech loss and need clock care at this stage.

Symptoms of dementia

Signs of dementia can change from person to person. Some including;

  • Memory problems
  • Repeating the same question many times
  • Feeling confused
  • Difficulty in understanding words
  • Facing problems in dealing with numbers or money
  • Anxiety or withdrawal
  • Feeling difficulty in planning and making tasks
  • Mood changes
  • Changes in personality and behavior
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Making inappropriate jokes
  • Obsessive tendencies

Early symptoms

Early symptoms also vary;

  • Forgetfulness
  • Mood changes
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Apathy
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty in completing tasks
  • Reduce the sense of direction
  • Feel difficulty in adopting changes
  • Leaving things in unusual places

Causes of dementia

Few types of dementia are caused by Alzheimer’s disease, in which progressive death of brain cells and neurons occurs. Dementia can also occur due to head injuries, stroke, brain tumors, and other causes. In a stroke, the supply of blood and oxygen to brain cells stops, which causes brain cells damage. Some traumatic head injuries can lead to dementia. Some other causes;

  • Overuse of some drugs
  • Some infections (HIV)
  • Depression
  • Vitamin E & B12 deficiency
  • Thyroid problems

Test to diagnosis

Some signs are not told about dementia. Diagnosis depends on medical tests and medical history.

  • Physical exam
  • Neurological exam
  • Mental status test
  • Laboratory tests

Common tests are

1. Mini-mental state examination (MMSE)

It is a questionnaire for measuring cognitive impairment—the memory test asks questions about language use, memory test comprehension, and motor skills.

2. Mini-cog test

Three steps include;

  • They will give you three words and ask you to repeat them back.
  • They will ask you to draw something or a clock.
  • They will ask you to repeat the words from the first step.

3. Clinical dementia rating

Diagnosis of dementia according to scores. Scores are listed below;

  • The average score is 0
  • A very mild dementia score is 0.5
  • A mild dementia score is 1
  • A moderate dementia score is 2
  • A severe dementia score is 3

Treatment of dementia

There is no treatment for some dementia because it is impossible to reverse brain cells. Some medications are used to reduce the symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease;

  • Donepezil
  • Galantamine
  • Rivastigmine
  • Cholinesterase (manage behavioral symptoms of Parkinson’s disease)

Tips of care

Changing lifestyle and diet can manage dementia;

  • Follow a balanced diet
  • Regular exercise
  • Attend all medical appointments
  • Take medications as prescribed
  • Sleep regularly
  • Choose a safe living space
  • Drink more water
  • Avoid smoking
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Find treatment for some conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol level, and high blood sugar level
  • Wear a helmet when rid on a motorbike

References

  • https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia#:~:text=Dementia%20is%20a%20general%20term,help%20those%20affected%20by%20Alzheimer’s.
  • https://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/types-dementia
  • https://www.ip-live-in-care.co.uk/7-stages-dementia/
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/142214
  • https://www.healthline.com/health/dementia/stages
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