Dementia is a general term used for memory loss and other intellectual abilities severe enough to affect your daily life. Basically, it is caused by physical changes in your brain.
Dementia causes complications with memory, thinking, and reasoning. It happens when the brain parts used for decision making, learning, memory, and language are injured or diseased.
There are many kinds of dementia but Alzheimer’s is the most common type. Around 60% to 80% of individuals with dementia have Alzheimer’s but there are as many as 50 other causes of dementia.
It is also called a major neurocognitive disorder. It is not a disease itself instead, it’s a group of signs caused by different other conditions. Its symptoms may improve with treatment. But many of the diseases which cause dementia are not curable.
Types of Dementia
There are two groups of dementia based on which part of the brain is affected.
- Cortical dementias; such dementias happen as a result of problems in the cerebral cortex which is the outer layer of the brain. They play a very critical role in language and memory. People with these types usually have severe memory loss and cannot understand language or remember words. The two forms of cortical dementia are Alzheimer’s and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
- Subcortical dementias; these dementias happen as a result of different problems in the parts of the brain below the cortex. People with this condition tend to show changes in their thinking speed and ability to start activities. Generally, individuals with subcortical dementia do not have forgetfulness and language problems. HIV, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease can cause these types of dementia.
However, some types of dementia affect both parts of the brain.
Causes of dementia
There are many causes of dementia but its most common causes include the following;
- Degenerative neurological diseases; these comprise Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and some types of multiple sclerosis. These diseases, sometimes, get worse over time.
- Vascular illnesses; these are disorders which affect the circulation of blood in your brain.
- Traumatic brain injuries; basically caused by car accidents, falls, concussions, etc.
- Infections of the central nervous system; these infections include HIV, meningitis, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
- Long-time use of alcohol or drug
- Certain types of hydrocephalus, a fluid buildup in the brain
Diagnosis of dementia
A doctor uses certain criteria in diagnosing dementia. Criteria for its diagnosis consist of impairment of attention, remembrance, judgment, positioning, language, motor and spatial skills, and function.
It is reported in as many as 1% of adults at the age of 60. It has also been assessed that the occurrence of dementia doubles every five years after age 65.
Treatments for Dementia
Dementia is not a disease, but it is a syndrome. Its symptoms are much common to several other brain diseases.
There are certain kinds of therapies which may help in the treatment of dementia. Moreover, everyday habits also matter, like staying social, exercise, good nutrition, doing things that challenge their mind, and getting good sleep.
No medication can completely cure dementia. But some medicines may help with some of the signs for a time. And specialists may recommend other meds to treat problems brought on by dementia, like irritability depression or trouble sleeping.
Cholinesterase inhibitors like galantamine (Razadyne), donepezil (Aricept), and rivastigmine (Exelon) can sometimes help to slow the development of cognitive changes. But quite often the effects of medications are only uncertain and cannot prevent eventual worsening of the condition. Anxiety and other emotional distresses are largely addressed as part of the overall treatment plan.