Healthy Living

What Does "Senile" Mean?

What Does "Senile" Mean?

What is senile?

Senile is the term used to describe an individual who experiences senility due to old age. The word "senility" means the state of both physical and mental decline associated with old age. Senility is commonly seen among the elderly. The concept of senility is also commonly compared to dementia.

There are various sections of the brain, which tend to control a variety of skills and abilities. As people grow older, various mental functions deteriorate such as memory, orientation, language, decision-making, and judgment.

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What are the causes of senility?

There are various types of medical conditions that are known to be associated with senility. However, not all of them are directly associated with advanced age as they can also occur in infants and children. The following are degenerative brain disorders associated with old age:

  • Huntington’s Chorea - It is a genetic disorder that causes a progressive degeneration of brain cells. The disease affects an individual’s functional abilities, particularly in movement and cognition. The signs and symptoms of the disorder are usually observed when people reach the age of 30-40 years old. However, the symptoms may also show later or earlier in life. When people develop the disorder before their 20s, the condition is referred to as juvenile Huntington’s disease (JHD). According to studies, the early onset of the disease usually shows a different set of symptoms with faster progression of the disease. Although medications can help manage the symptoms of the disease, the decline in the physical, behavioral, and mental abilities of the person cannot be prevented.
  • Alzheimer’s Disease - It is the most common cause of dementia. In Alzheimer's disease, nerve cells in the brain degenerate and die, which leads to a progressive decline in a person's memory and mental processes. People with Alzheimer's disease may initially become aware of memory problems and mild confusion. As the disease progresses, people usually undergo personality changes and may even forget family members or loved ones.  
  • Lewy Body Disease - It is a complex progressive brain disease characterized by the formation of abnormal protein clumps in the areas of the brain that control movement, cognition, and behavior. The disease is often misdiagnosed since the symptoms of the disease can closely resemble the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. It also affects a person’s blood pressure, body temperature, and bowel and bladder control. 
  • Parkinson’s Disease - This disease involves the abnormal function and death of important neurons in the brain. It gradually affects a person’s movement such as a hardly noticeable tremor on one hand. Aside from tremors, the disease also causes slow movements and stiffness. The symptoms of the disease also worsen as the condition progresses. It mainly affects the nerve cells in the substantia nigra, which is an area in the midbrain that regulates reward and movement. The affected nerve cells produce the chemical messenger called dopamine, which sends messages to the area of the brain that regulates coordination and movement. The amount of dopamine produced in the brain is significantly decreased as Parkinson’s disease progresses, leading to the inability of the person to normally control body movements. 
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) - It is a human prion disease. A prion disease occurs when there is an abnormal three-dimensional folding of the prion protein. According to scientists, a misfolded prion protein results in the death of nerve cells leading to the abnormal and rapid decline in a person’s mental processes and muscle movements. Symptoms of the disease include confusion, mood changes, and difficulty walking. 
  • Vascular DementiaIt is the second most common cause of dementia. It is a general term used to describe problems with mental functioning due to brain damage caused by a reduced blood flow to the brain. Vascular dementia develops when a stroke blocks the major blood vessels in the brain. However, not all strokes can cause vascular dementia. Vascular dementia can also result from other blood vessel conditions that cause poor circulation, which deprives the brain of the oxygen and nutrients it needs. 

Alzheimer’s disease is known to be one of the most common forms of senility wherein people tend to experience various signs of memory problems and other vital functions of the brain. People with Alzheimer's disease find it difficult to recall or remember any past or recent events. They also have a hard time learning new things. Some of the other causes of senility include:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Alcohol or drug addiction
  • Stroke
  • Hashimoto’s disease (an autoimmune disease that attacks the thyroid)
  • Improper diet leading to lack of nutrients in the body

Apart from the ones mentioned above, few of the other less common causes, which can possibly accompany senility would include:

What are the symptoms of senility?

There are physical and mental changes associated with senility. The physical changes include:

  • Loss of vision or hearing
  • Wrinkled skin
  • Hunched posture
  • Decreased muscle strength
  • Joint stiffness
  • Brittle bones
  • Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)

The mental changes are:

  • Lack of proper judgment
  • Progressive memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Anorexia
  • Lack of concentration
  • Childish behavior

Noticeable changes in an individual's personality are said to be one of the obvious signs of senility.

Diagnosis 

A proper and accurate diagnosis of any type of degenerative brain disorder such as senility would require a professional assessment or screening by healthcare providers. However, the signs of senility are usually recognizable by the individual involved or family and friends. The signs of senility are also often associated with the previously mentioned conditions. 

Treatment

Since senility is a degenerative condition, senile people tend to become progressively worse as time goes by. Even though there is no cure for some conditions associated with senility, early recognition can help manage the symptoms. Creating a management plan enables the affected person to live a quality life along with lesser senility symptoms. However, to create an effective management plan, thorough examinations and an accurate diagnosis are necessary.

Medications can be taken by elderly patients to help slow down the progress of senility including other degenerative diseases. Although treatment may work, there are also corresponding side effects from medications, especially among the elderly. Moreover, elderly patients can undergo behavioral or psychiatric therapies along with medications.

In addition, exercise, proper nutrition, and lifestyle changes are important contributory factors when it comes to improving mental clarity. To keep the mind active, it is necessary to engage older people in stimulating activities including regular social interaction with family and friends. 

Key Takeaways

  • Senility is commonly seen among the elderly. The concept of senility is also commonly compared to dementia.
  • Noticeable changes in an individual's personality are said to be one of the obvious signs of senility.
  • Since senility is a degenerative condition, senile people tend to become progressively worse as time goes by.