Dementia: Everything You Need to Know

Dementia is a general term used to describe various symptoms of intellectual decline and brain disorders. This mental condition is not a single disease in itself, but a general term to describe symptoms of deficiency in thinking, memory, and communication.
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Though dementia isn’t a normal part of aging, the chances of developing the diseases increases with age.  Alzheimer’s disease makes up 60-80 percent of all dementia cases.

Symptoms of Dementia

Some symptoms of this condition may be noticed by the patients, while others may be noticed by caregivers or healthcare workers.
According to the American Family Physician, possible symptoms of dementia include:
  • Recent memory loss like asking the same question repeatedly
  • Disorientation which includes getting lost on a familiar street
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  • Problems communicating– difficulty with language; forgetting simple words or using the wrong ones.
  • Problems with abstract thinking like dealing with eve small amount of money.
  • Misplacing things forgetting the location of items like wallets or keys
  • Personality changes like becoming fearful, ill-tempered, or apprehensive.
  • Loss of initiative
These symptoms appears to deteriorate as the patient gets older.
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Stages of Dementia

There are about four (4) stages of this condition. They include::
Mild cognitive impairment. This is described as general forgetfulness. This comes on as people advance in age, but only progresses to dementia for some.
Mild dementia: People with mild dementia will experience cognitive deficiencies that rarely impact their daily life. Symptoms may include confusion, getting lost, loss of memory, personality changes, and difficulty in implementing tasks.
Moderate dementia: At this stage, daily tasks becomes more challenging, and the individual may need more help from caregivers. Symptoms are similar to mild dementia but increased.
Severe dementia: Symptoms of dementia have greatly deteriorated at this stage and there may be a loss of ability to communicate, and the individual might need full-time care.

Types of Dementia 

  • Alzheimer’s disease. This is described by plagues between the dying cells in the brain and tangles within the cells. Both are caused by protein abnormalities. The brain tissue in a person with Alzheimer’s has increasingly fewer nerve cells and connections.
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies. This is a neurodegenerative condition that is connected to abnormal structures in the brain. The brain changes involve a protein called alpha-synuclein.
  • Mixed dementia. This is a diagnosis of two or three types occurring together.
  • Parkinson’s disease. This is characterized by the presence of Lewy bodies. Parkinson’s is often considered a disorder of movement, it can also lead to dementia.
  • Huntington’s disease. This is marked by specific types of uncontrolled movements.
  • Down syndrome. This increases the chances of young-onset Alzheimer’s.

Early Signs and Symptoms of Dementia

Early signs can include:
  • Changes in short-term memory.
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty finding the right words
  • Poor sense of direction
  • Changes in mood
  • Apathy
  • Being repetitive
  • Trouble adjusting to changes
  • Difficulty following a storyline.
  • Trouble completing everyday tasks
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Causes of Dementia

Dementias can be caused by death of brain cell and neurodegenerative disease that develops over time. However, experts are yet to know if the dementia causes the brain cell death, or the brain cell death causes the dementia. Dementia can also be caused by a stroke, brain tumor, or head injury.
  • Vascular dementia. This results from brain cell death caused by cerebrovascular disease. This prevents normal blood flow, thereby starving brain cells of oxygen.
  • Injury. This post-traumatic dementia is directly linked to brain cell death caused by injury.
  • Prion diseases. Like CJD (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease).
  • HIV infection. The virus from this dreaded disease damages brain cells.
  • Reversible factors. Some dementias can be treated by reversing the effects of underlying causes.

Diagnosing Dementia

According to research, dementia cannot be dependably analyzed without using the standard tests below, completing them fully, and recording all the answers.
Cognitive tests
Cognitive dementia tests are generally used as a reliable way of indicating this condition. They have changed little since being established in the early 1970s. The abbreviated mental test score which include:
  • What is your age?
  • What is the time, to the nearest hour?
  • What is the year?
  • What is your date of birth?
Each correct answer gets one point; scoring six points or fewer suggests cognitive deficiency.
The General Practitioner Assessment of Cognition (GPCOG) test which is designed for doctors, includes an added element for recording the observations of relatives and caregivers.
The second part of the test analyses someone close to the patient and includes six questions to find out whether the patient has:
  • become less able to remember recent events or conversations
  • begun struggling to find the right words or using inappropriate ones
  • found difficulty managing money or medications
  • needed more help with transport (without the reason being, for example, injury)
If the test does suggest memory loss, standard investigations are then recommended, including routine blood tests and a CT brain scan.
Clinical tests will identify, or rule out, treatable causes of memory loss and help to narrow down potential causes, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
The mini-mental state examination (MMSE) is a cognitive test used to diagnose dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease which measures:
  • orientation to time and place
  • word recall
  • language abilities
  • attention and calculation
  • visuospatial skills

Treatment for Dementia

The death of brain cell is irreversible, so there is no known cure for degenerative dementia. Managing is mental condition is focused on providing care and treating symptoms instead of their underlying cause. If symptoms are due to a reversible, non-degenerative cause, treatment may be possible to avert or halt further brain tissue damage.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can be eased by some medications. There are four drugs, called cholinesterase inhibitors, approved for use in the U.S. They include:
  • donepezil (brand name Aricept)
  • tacrine (Cognex)
  • galantamine (Reminyl)
  • rivastigmine (Exelon)
A different kind of drug, memantine (Namenda), an NMDA receptor antagonist, may also be used, alone or in combination with a cholinesterase inhibitor.

Preventing Dementia

Age is one of the major factors that is linked with this condition. Other risk factors include:
  • Smoking and alcohol use.
  • Diabetes
  • Mild cognitive impairment
  • High levels of bad cholesterol
  • Atherosclerosis (cardiovascular disease that causes the arteries to narrow).
  • Above-average blood levels of homocysteine (a type of amino acid).


Disclaimer: The content provided on is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical doctor or healthcare professional.

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