A broad category of brain diseases, Dementia is a mental condition in which a person loses his/her ability to reason, think and remember. Moreover, areas like personality, behavior as well as mood are affected in such a way that the normal functioning of the person is hampered. There are many reasons behind this life altering problem, but the most common is Alzheimer’s disease, in which, problems like short term memory loss, getting lost and word finding difficulties are common.
The symptoms of Dementia vary to a great extent. However, the most common symptoms can be categorized into cognitive, psychological and behavioral problems, severe enough to hamper day to day functioning.
- Memory Loss
- Problem solving (executive) skills
- Visual spatial functions
- Changes in reasoning and judgment
- Difficulty in handling things (bill, payments, money) independently
- Increasing dependency for day to day tasks
- Wandering aimlessly
- Difficulty in cooking and following complex instructions
- Agitation and restlessness
There are many causes of Dementia, the most common being diseases.
- Diseases: Making up to 50%-70% cases of Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is one of the major causes of this condition. Other diseases like Parkinson’s disease as well as Huntington’s disease may also lead to Dementia.
- Infections: Severe infections like untreated syphilis, encephalitis, meningitis, etc. can produce the symptoms of Dementia. When treated, the problem is often reversed.
- Vascular Dementia: Vascular dementia is the second most common causes of dementia and caused due to damage in blood cells because of blocked or reduced blood supply to the brain. Such cases may arise at the time of a stroke or in people with high blood pressure.
- Deficiency of nutrients: The nutrient deficiency of vitamin B12 and Folate has been associated with dementia.
Due to overlapping symptoms and varying causes, it is very difficult to diagnose dementia with absolute certainty. Moreover, classifying the type of dementia poses further complexity as there is no definite way to diagnose them. The various measures that doctors use are:
- A thorough physical examination
- Cognitive Tests like the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE), which test the thinking, reasoning and planning abilities of a person.
- Laboratory Tests like blood tests are also used to diagnose problems like thyroid hormone or vitamin B12 deficiency.
- Brain scans including MRI, CT scan, PET scan, etc. are also sometimes used
Although there is no cure for dementia, there are many treatment options to help stall its progress. Depending on what is causing your dementia, you may receive medical or therapeutic treatment.
- If you are suffering from mild to moderate Alzheimer’s, your doctor may prescribe acetylcholinesterase inhibitors
- Memantine hydrochloride may be prescribed for moderate to severe Alzheimer’s that does not respond to acetylcholinesterase inhibitors
- Antipsychotics or antidepressants may also be prescribed to help treat side effects
- Although therapy cannot treat dementia, it can aid in managing side effects
- Your doctor may suggest cognitive reward therapy, behavioral therapy, validation therapy or reality orientation therapy