Dementia

1 What is Dementia?

Dementia is a group of symptoms that affect memory, thinking and social ability.

This interferes with a person's daily activities. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of progressive dementia.

Certain types of dementia can be reversed when the causative factor is treated while others are  progressive. 

2 Symptoms

The symptoms of dementia vary depending on the part of the brain that is affected.

The symptoms of dementia can be divided into cognitive and psychological changes.

Cognitive changes include

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty communicating or finging words
  • Difficulty reasoning or solving problems
  • Trouble with planning and organizing
  • Poor coordination and motor function
  • Confusion and disorientation

Psychological changes include

3 Causes

Dementia is caused by the damage of nerve cells in the brain. Dementias can be grouped according to the affected area or whether they worsen with time (progressive dementias).

Other dementias which are caused by vitamins or deficencies of certain vitamins can be improved with treatment.

Progressive dementias that can't be reversed include:

Other disorders that can be linked to dementia include;

4 Making a Diagnosis

Tests that can be used for the diagnosis of dementia:

  • Cognitive and psychological tests in which doctors measure the thinking skills such as
    • memory,
    • orientation,
    • reasoning and judgement,
    • language skills
    • attention.
  • Neurological evaluation in which doctors evaluate
    • memory,
    • laguage,
    • visual perception,
    • attention,
    • problem-solving,
    • movement,
    • senses,
    • balance,
    • reflexes
    • and other areas.
  • Brain scans like MRI, CT and PET scans can be used check for evidence for stroke, bleeding or tumors.
  • Lab tests to check for physical problems that can affect brain function, such as vitamin B-12 deficiency and hypothyroidism.
  • Psychiatric evaluation to check for any other underlying mental problems.

5 Treatment

There is no treatment for dementia and medications are usually used for managing its symptoms.

Medications that can be used include:

  • Cholinesterase inhibitors including donepezil (Aricept), rivastagmine (Exelon) and galantamine (Razadyne). These drugs increase the levels of a nuerotransmitter that is involved in memeory and judgement. Side effects of these drugs may include
  • Memantine, which helps regulate glutamte, a neurotransmitter, that is involved in brain functions like learning and memory. Sometimes memantine can be given along with cholinesterase inhibitors.
  • Non-drug therapies that can be used to treat dementia include making environmental and occupational changes to help the person with dementia to find it easier to focus and function.

6 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Alternative remedies for dementia that can be helpful include dietary supplements, herbal remedies and therapies.

Other therapies include:

  • Taking small doses of vitamin E
  • Eating fish omega-3 fatty acids
  • Ginkgo
  • Music therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Pet therapy
  • Massage therapy

7 Risks and Complications

Risk factors that can increase the chances of developing dementia include:

Complications of dementia may include:

  • Inadequate nutrition
  • Pneumonia
  • Inability to perform self-care tasks
  • Increased risk of injury
  • Death                                                                          
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