Dementia- Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors, Prevention and More.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is an umbrella term allocated to mental disorders that are typically characterized by loss of memory, thinking disabilities and also social disabilities. These disabilities interfere with the daily life of the one who is affected. Though dementia generally means memory loss, memory loss has a lot of reasons and thus mere loss of memory does not mean you have dementia.

Symptoms of Dementia:

The symptoms of dementia varies from one person to another, however there are some common symptoms that reflect in all patients. These symptoms are as stated under:

1. Cognitive Changes:

Cognition means understanding. A person with dementia displays abnormalities in the brain’s function of processing and understanding. The symptoms that are displayed are as follows:

  • Loss of Memory that is usually observed by the people staying with the patient or those who are close friends and family members.
  • Difficulty in communicating which is typically characterized by disability of the patient to find words in order to communicate. The patients are unable to recall the correct words in order to express what they feel.
  • Difficulty in reasoning or problem solving. The patients are unable to solve simple problems or make simple decisions also. Their reasoning power using logic even in very simplistic situations is hampered.
  • When a patient cannot handle simple tasks, there is no question of handling complicated tasks that require application of reasoning skills, inference and logic.
  • Dementia patients are mal-organized. They are unable to plan their actions. This leads to confusion in their life. They are usually very chaotic and disturbed due to lack of planning.
  • Co-ordination is also marred. They cannot judge their movements. As a result the motor functions are also obstructed. Simple tasks like walking become difficult and one finds it difficult to balance their tasks.
  • The patients become confused due to lack of decision making, understanding, lack of co-ordination and hampered reasoning skills.  As a result the patients become disoriented towards their surrounding. They become clueless and are unable to comprehend the situation.

Psychological Symptoms of Dementia:

These changes are mainly concerned with the effect on brain of the mental disorder that causes dementia. They are as follows:

  • There are noticeable changes in the personality of the patient. They may become more short tempered, confused, less confident persons. This is as a result of the above stated cognitive changes in the patient.
  • The patients of dementia are unable to settle with the changes in their lives. This is a cause of depression among most patients. They become sad, perpetually gloomy and worst, they are unable to express what they feel.
  • Some patients also become very anxious and become prone to anxiety attacks also. These are characterized by shivering, perspiration, feeling scared and confused.
  • The patients of dementia suffer from illusions. They feel that they see things moving which are not in reality, in motion.
  • Hallucinations are also common in dementia patients. They can see things and people who are not around, they also can hear noises.
  • Because of the above mental problems, the patient becomes agitated and aggressive. They lose control over their actions and in extreme cases also become violent.

Causes of Dementia:

Dementia is caused due to damaged nerve cells of the brain. This can happen in several areas of the brain. The area that is affected decides how the patient will react to the mental illness.

Dementias are often grouped by what they have in common, such as the part of the brain that’s affected or whether they worsen over time (progressive dementias). Some dementias, such as those caused by a reaction to medications or vitamin deficiencies, might improve with treatment.

Progressive Dementia:

These types of dementia are the ones which keep progressing and are not reversible. They are like termites which keep consuming the brain of the patient slowly and steadily.

1. Alzheimer’s Disease:

It is the most common cause of dementia. This disease affects people of older age. It usually strikes a person after they have crossed 60 years of age. The cause of Alzheimer is unknown. However, plaques and tangles are often found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. Plaques are clumps of a protein called beta-amyloid, and tangles are fibrous tangles made up of tau protein. Certain genetic factors might make it more likely that people will develop Alzheimer’s.

2. Vascular Dementia:

It is the second most common type of dementia. It is caused due to damage to the vessels that supply blood to your brain. Blood vessel problems occur due to stroke.

3. Lewy Body Dementia:

Lewy bodies are abnormal clumps of protein that have been found in the brains of people with Lewy body dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. This is also one of the more common types of progressive dementia.

4. Frontotemporal Dementia:

This disease is characterized by degenerating nerve cells in the brain. The cells of your brain slowly die and are not replenished by new ones. The cells of the frontal lobe and temporal lobes of the brain are affected. These are the areas that generally drive your personality, language and behaviour.

5. Mixed Dementia:

Mixed dementia means a combination of different other types of dementia as stated above. More than one type of dementia strikes the brain. Autopsy studies conducted on the brains of people aged 80 years and above who had dementia indicated that many had a combination of Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia and Lewy body dementia. Studies are ongoing to determine how having mixed dementia affects symptoms and treatments.

Other Disorders linked to Dementia:

1. Huntington’s Disease:

This disease is caused by genetic mutation. It affects the nerve cells of spinal cord and the brain to waste away. It can affect a person within the age limit of 30-40 years.

2. Traumatic Brain Injury:

The cause of head injury could be repeated shocks over a certain area of the brain. This usually happens to boxers who get inflicted with severe blows at specific regions of the brain during a fight. It may also happen to football players and even soldiers. Depending on the part of the brain that’s injured, this condition can cause dementia signs and symptoms, such as depression, explosiveness, memory loss, uncoordinated movement and impaired speech.

3. Parkinson’s Disease:

Most people with parkinson’s develop dementia in the later stages.

Dementia Like conditions that can be Reversed:

The above stated mental illnesses have no cure at all. However, doctors try to ensure that they can control the symptoms of the patients so as to ensure that the patient is harmed as minimal as possible. These symptoms are controlled using medicines, drugs and also using psychological treatments like therapies.

The medicines and drugs that are prescribed are those which try to substitute for any nutritional deficiencies that causes dementia. They may also aim at repairing the damaged areas and cells of your brain.

Risk Factors causing Dementia:

1. Age:

This is the most common risk factor.Most mental problems start to happen with age as the brain cells begin to become weaker day by day.

2. Family History:

Having a family history of dementia puts you at greater risk of developing the condition. However, many people with a family history never develop symptoms, and many people without a family history do. Tests to determine whether you have certain genetic mutations are available.

3. Down Syndrome:

By middle age, many people with Down syndrome develop early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Prevention of Dementia:

There is no way to prevent dementia but you can do enough to control the symptoms.

1. Keep your mind active:

Keep your mind active. Solve puzzles, riddles, play word games, etc and keep your brain in working condition. This will help you relieve most of the cognitive symptoms of dementia.

2. Quit Smoking:

Some studies have shown smoking in middle age and beyond may increase your risk of dementia and blood vessel (vascular) conditions. Quitting smoking might reduce your risk and will improve your health.

3. Intake of Vitamin D:

Getting enough vitamin D can has proven to be effective in preventing symptoms of dementia as per research. Get enough vitamin D through food supplements and medications.

4. Keep a check on your Blood Pressure:

High blood pressure is a cause of stroke. This could lead to vascular dementia. Also it may result in Alzheimer’s as well.

5. Maintain a Healthy Diet:

If the cause of your dementia is nutritional deficiency, you need to ensure that you eat a balanced diet. Take enough from your diet instead of consuming more and more medicines. there are a lot of benefits naturally available to empower your body with all nutrients that it may need.

Shabnam Vandeliwala

Venturing into writing is my second most admired hobby after litigating in courts. An advocate by profession, writing gives me immense sense of satisfaction especially in the time that I'm free from other work.

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