What is Dementia? Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is not a particular disease but a term used for several conditions, such as Alzheimer's Disease. The disorders related to dementia cause abnormal changes in the brain. The symptoms include loss of memory and thinking and problem-solving skills, all of which can interfere with your daily life. These changes also affect behaviour and social and personal life and relationships. Various conditions can cause certain signs and symptoms of dementia, most of which can not be cured. However, conditions such as vitamin deficiencies, depression and thyroid problems can be reversed.
If a loved one has symptoms of dementia, consult your doctor at the early signs of dementia to help diagnose the cause and get them the necessary treatment.
Categories of dementia
Dementia is divided into three categories:
Primary, where dementia is the main illness:
- Alzheimer's disease
- Vascular dementia
- Dementia with Lewy bodies
- Mixed dementia
- Frontotemporal dementia
Secondary, where dementia is caused due to another disease:
- Huntington's disease
- Parkinson's disease
- Cruetzfeldt - Jakob disease
- Traumatic brain injury
Dementia due to reversible causes:
- Vitamin deficiency
- Normal pressure hydrocephalus
- Infections like Lyme disease or HIV
- Endocrine and metabolic conditions, like thyroid problems, liver cirrhosis, and low blood sugar
- Other causes like a brain tumour
What are the causes of dementia?
To understand what causes dementia, it is important to understand brain cells and their connections.
When the brain cells fail to communicate with each other, it affects behaviour, thinking, and emotions.
Different regions in the brain are responsible for various functions. When the brain cells in any region are affected, that region can't fulfil its functions effectively.
- Alzheimer's disease is a common cause of dementia. Plaques or clusters of the protein called beta-amyloid and tangles of the tau protein damage the healthy cells in the brain in Alzheimer's disease patients. Patients experience different signs of dementia depending upon what are the stages of dementia.
- Vascular dementia is caused due to damage to the blood vessels that supply blood to the brain.
- Lewy body dementia disease is caused due to balloon-shaped clusters of proteins in the brain.
- Frontotemporal dementia is caused due to the breakdown of nerve cells and their connections in the frontal and temporal regions of the brain.
- Mixed dementia is caused due to a combination of Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia, and Lewy body dementia.
How is dementia diagnosed?
Your doctor will study your medical history and conduct a thorough physical examination. They will ask the family members about the signs of dementia that you display. They will also advise several tests to help in the diagnosis of dementia.
The tests are:
Cognitive and neuropsychological tests:
These tests help check your thinking skills, memory, attention, reasoning, judgment, language skills, and orientation
As part of the neurological assessment, your doctor will analyse your language, attention, problem-solving skills, movement, balance, and reflexes.
CT scans or MRIs are advised to check for an indication of a stroke, tumour, bleeding, or hydrocephalus.
Your doctor will advise blood tests to check for vitamin B deficiency and thyroid functioning. They will recommend a spinal fluid test(csf analysis) to check for infection, inflammation, or a degenerative disease.
Your psychiatrist will assess you for depression or other mental health conditions responsible for symptoms of dementia.
What are the complications associated with dementia?
Dementia disease affects the body's ability to function normally. It can cause the following complications:
Problems at workplace
Inability to take care of oneself
Personal safety issues
How to treat dementia?
The treatment of dementia depends upon the causes of dementia. Although most types of dementia can not be treated, your doctor will suggest ways to manage the symptoms of dementia with the help of medications and therapies.
Medications prescribed for the disease treatment of dementia are:
These medications are prescribed for the treatment of Alzheimer's Disease, Lewy body dementia, and Parkinson's disease dementia. These drugs help boost the chemical messengers responsible for memory and judgment.
These medications boost a chemical messenger responsible for learning and memory.
- Other medications are also prescribed to treat signs and symptoms of dementia, such as sleep disturbances, agitation, hallucinations, and depression.
Besides medications, doctors will also recommend the following:
- Occupational therapy helps manage behaviour and teaches coping behaviour to prevent accidents. The therapist will help with suggestions for making your home safer and preparing you for the progression of your disease.
- Make alterations at home to reduce noise and clutter to help you or your loved ones focus better and function to the best of their ability. Your therapist will guide you on simplifying tasks, making them easy to perform, and preventing confusion and distress.
What can be done to prevent dementia?
Dementia can't be prevented. However, you can take measures to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and support the prevention of dementia. These are:
- Keep your mind active by participating in mentally stimulating activities such as solving puzzles, reading, word games, and memory training.
- Be physically active. Exercise 30 minutes a day, 150 minutes a week
- Be socially active. A social network helps prevent cognitive decline and reduces the risk of dementia.
- Quit smoking. Smoking increases the risk of stroke or bleeding in the brain, which increases the development of Alzheimer's disease.
- Manage cardiovascular conditions. Maintain healthy levels of blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure. Reduce your weight.
- Follow a balanced diet comprising vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and omega-3 fatty acids to promote overall health and well-being.
- Get enough sleep. Address sleep-related issues such as sleep apnea, snoring, and sleeplessness.
- Treat hearing problems if you have any. Hearing loss increases the risk of cognitive decline.
How do people live with dementia?
Living with dementia is a challenge for patients. However, as caregivers, you can help your loved ones to reduce their discomfort in the following ways:
- Encourage them to stay physically active by incorporating exercise to improve balance, strength, and heart health.
- Communicate with them through simple sentences and gestures to help them understand instructions and suggestions
- Engage them in activities they enjoy, like painting, singing, dancing, etc.
- Maintain a calendar to help them remember daily activities, events, and medication schedules.
- Go for regular eyesight, dental, and hearing check-ups.
- Follow a regular everyday routine.
Dementia is a debilitating condition that affects memory, language, thinking and problem-solving skills. Although it is incurable, timely medical treatment and therapies can help you deal with the symptoms of dementia. Caregivers play a crucial role in a patient's health care and help them live a dignified life.
Please visit Aware Gleneagles Global Hospital, LB Nagar, Hyderabad one of the best neurology hospital in Hyderabad to consult our expert geriatricians and neurologists for more information, care, and management of dementia. Visit our website and book an appointment now!