Dementia: Symptoms and Treatment

Overview

The term dementia refers to a collection of symptoms that affect a person’s memory, thinking skills and social abilities. These impacts usually severely interfere with the person’s daily life. There are many different types of dementia, and the most common one is Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Some dementias get worse over time, and others can be treated or cured. Dementia may cause different degrees of mental impairment, communication problems and personality changes.

There is a high incidence of dementia among old people. It has been estimated that about 6% to 10% of individuals ages 65 years or older are affected by dementia worldwide.

Particularly, more than 3 million people are diagnosed with dementia per year in the U.S.

Causes

Generally, dementia results from damage to or loss of nerve cells, or disturbances in other body systems affecting neuronal function.

s from damage to or loss of nerve cells, or disturbances in other body systems affecting neuronal function.

Several conditions can cause dementia. Some of the more common
causes of dementia include:

Neurodegenerative
diseases

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease with dementia
  • vascular dementia
  • medication side effects
  • chronic alcoholism
  • certain tumors or infections of the brain

Frontotemporal
lobar degeneration

  • frontotemporal dementia
  • Pick’s disease
  • supranuclear palsy
  • corticobasal degeneration

Other conditions

  • structural brain disorders, such as normal-pressure hydrocephalus and subdural hematoma
  • metabolic disorders, such as hypothyroidism, vitamin B-12 deficiency, and kidney and liver disorders
  • toxins, such as lead

Symptoms

Dementia symptoms vary depending on the cause,
but common signs and symptoms include:

Cognitive
changes

  • Memory loss
  • Slow response
  • Difficulty communicating or finding right
    words
  • Difficulty with visual and spatial
    abilities
  • Difficulty reasoning or problem-solving
  • Difficulty handling everyday tasks and complex
    tasks
  • Difficulty with planning and organizing
  • Difficulty with coordination and motor
    functions
  • Confusion and disorientation

Psychological
changes

  • Personality changes
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Inappropriate or repetitive behaviors
  • Paranoia
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations

Diagnosis

Diagnosing dementia can be challenging for
two reasons: symptoms of different types of dementia may overlap, or people can
have multiple types of dementia at the same time.

It is advisable to find a specialist to diagnose
a dementia. The physician reviews your medical history and symptoms in details,
conduct a physical exam and a neuropsychological assessment, and run a number
of tests to check the problems.

  • Cognitive and
    neuropsychological tests

Doctors
will evaluate your thinking function, such as memory, orientation, reasoning
and judgment, language skills, and attention.

  • Neurological
    evaluation

Doctors
evaluate your memory, language, visual perception, attention, problem-solving,
movement, senses, balance, reflexes and other areas.

  • Brain scans

CT, MRI and PET scans are all available techniques for scanning the brain
conditions.

  • Laboratory tests

Simple blood tests can detect physical problems that can affect
brain function.

  • Psychiatric
    evaluation

The purpose of psychiatric evaluation is to determine whether depression or another mental health condition is contributing to the symptoms of dementia.

Treatment

Although most types of dementia can’t be cured, several medications and non-drug therapies can manage your symptoms.

Medications

Two types of medication are used to treat symptoms of dementia:

  • Cholinesterase inhibitors
  • Memantine
  • Dietary supplements
  • Herbal remedies
  • Vitamins

Non-drug
therapies

Common non-drug treatments for dementia include:

  • Modifying your environment
  • Simplifying common tasks
  • Occupational therapy
  • Music therapy
  • Pet therapy
  • Aromatherapy
  • Massage therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Light exercise
  • Watching videos of family members

Keywords: dementia.

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