Dementia is a description of the state of a person’s mental function and not a specific disease.
Dementia entails a decline in mental function from a previously higher level that’s severe enough to interfere with daily living. A person with dementia has two or more of these specific difficulties, including a decline in:
Dementia develops when the parts of your brain involved with learning, memory, decision-making or language are affected by infections or diseases. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease.
But other known causes of dementia include:
- Vascular dementia.
- Dementia with Lewy bodies.
- Frontotemporal dementia.
- Mixed dementia.
- Dementia due to Parkinson’s disease.
- Dementia-like conditions due to reversible causes, such as medication side effects or thyroid problems.
Different types of dementia?
Dementias can be divided into three groups:
- Primary (diseases and conditions in which dementia is the main illness).
- Secondary (dementia due to another disease or condition).
- Reversible dementia-like symptoms are caused by other illnesses or causes.
Symptoms of dementia?
Early symptoms of dementia include:
- Forgetting recent events or information.
- Repeating comments or questions over a very short period.
- Misplacing commonly used items or placing them in unusual spots.
- Not knowing the season, year, or month.
- Having difficulty coming up with the right words.
- Experiencing a change in mood, behavior, or interests.
Signs that dementia is getting worse include:
- Your ability to remember and make decisions further declines.
- Talking and finding the right words becomes more difficult.
- Daily complex tasks, such as brushing your teeth, making a cup of coffee, working a TV remote, cooking, and paying bills become more challenging.
- Lessening of rational thinking and behavior and your ability to problem-solve.
- Sleeping pattern changes.
- Increases or worsening of anxiety, frustration, confusion, agitation, suspiciousness, sadness, and/or depression.
- Needing more help with activities of daily living, such as grooming, toileting, bathing, and eating.
- Experiencing hallucinations (seeing people or objects that aren’t there).
These symptoms are general symptoms of dementia. Each person diagnosed with dementia has different symptoms, depending on what area of their brain is damaged. Additional symptoms and/or unique symptoms occur with specific types of dementia.
Is there a cure for dementia?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a cure for the most common types of dementia. Currently, approved medications can, at best, slow the decline.
What are the possible complications of dementia?
Your brain controls all of your body’s functions. When your brain functions decline, your overall health is eventually at risk. Many illnesses and conditions can happen as a result of having dementia.
Possible complications of dementia include:
- Dehydration and malnutrition.
- Bedsores (pressure ulcers).
- Injuries and bone fractures from falls.
- Heart attacks.
- Kidney failure.
- Pneumonia and aspiration pneumonia (food particles are inhaled into your lung and cause infection).
- Sepsis (infection).
What can I expect if I have dementia?
Getting a diagnosis of dementia is certainly difficult to hear. Several types of dementia aren’t reversible. Others are a side effect of other serious diseases. Some dementia-like symptoms are due to conditions that can be treated and reversed.
Our Doctors team, which will probably include a neurologist and/or a geriatric-psychiatrist or a geriatrician, will order the needed tests to make the correct diagnosis. The medications available today focus on slowing the decline.
The goal is to maintain your or your loved one’s quality of life. Some people with Alzheimer’s dementia can live up to two decades, but each person has their own unique course. Researchers continue learning about the mechanisms that cause dementia and testing different methods to slow, and someday, hopefully, cure this disease.