Dementia is not a specific disease. It is a comprehensive term for various diseases and conditions, identified by a decline in mentality severe enough that it renders a person incapable to perform everyday activities.
Alzheimer's disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases. Vascular dementia, which occurs due to microscopic bleeding and blood vessel blockage in the brain, is the subsequent most common cause of dementia. But there are various other conditions that can cause symptoms of dementia, which include some that are reversible, such as thyroid problems and vitamin deficiencies.
Dementia is often mistakenly referred to as "senility" or "senile dementia," which reflects the formerly extensive but incorrect belief that serious mental decline is a normal part of aging.
Frail Care assistance is required for people struggling with dementia.
While symptoms of dementia can vary greatly, at least some of the following mental functions must be notably impaired to be considered dementia:
People with dementia may have trouble with short term memory, planning & preparing meals, paying bills, etc. Many dementias are progressive, meaning symptoms start out slowly and gradually escalate. If you or someone you know is experiencing memory problems or any other changes with thinking skills, don't ignore them. See a doctor as soon as possible to determine the cause. Professional evaluation may detect a treatable condition, early diagnosis allows a person to get the maximum benefit from available treatments.
Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells. Damage to brain cells disrupts the communication between brain cells, which could then affect a person’s thinking, feelings and behaviour.
The brain has various distinct regions, which are all responsible for carrying out different functions (e.g. memory, movement etc.). When cells in one of these regions are damaged, that region can no longer carry out its functions as affectively as it used to, if at all.
Different types of dementia are correlated with particular types of brain cell damage in particular regions. For example, in Alzheimer's disease, high levels of certain proteins inside and outside brain cells make it hard for brain cells to stay healthy and communicative with each other.
The brain cells in the hippocampus (the center of learning and memory) region are often the first to be damaged. That's why memory loss is frequently one of the earliest symptoms of Alzheimer's. While most changes in the brain that cause dementia are permanent, mentality problems caused by the following conditions may improve once the condition is treated or addressed:
There is no one test to determine if someone has dementia. Doctors diagnose Alzheimer's and other types of dementia based on a careful medical history, a physical examination, laboratory tests, and the characteristic changes in mentality, day-to-day function and behaviour associated with each type.
Doctors can determine that a person has dementia with a high level of certainty. But it's harder to determine the exact type of dementia because the symptoms and brain changes of different dementias can overlap. In some cases, a doctor may diagnose "dementia" and not specify a type. If this occurs it may be necessary to see a specialist such as a neurologist or gero-psychologist.