Dementia is a term used to describe a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking, and social abilities. severely enough to interfere with your daily life. These changes are severe enough to interfere with social or occupational functioning.
Dementia isn’t a specific disease, Instead, it’s a group of symptoms caused by other conditions.
About 5%-8% of adults over age 65 have some form of dementia. This percentage doubles every 5 years after 65. As many as half of people in their 80s have some dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in older people but there are a number of other causes of dementia.
Dementia symptoms may improve with treatment but many of the diseases that cause dementia aren’t curable.
Some of its symptoms include:
- Short-term memory loss
- Difficulty communicating or finding words
- Difficulty with visual and spatial abilities, such as getting lost while driving
- Trouble with complex but familiar tasks, like fixing a meal or paying bills
- Personality changes, like depression, agitation, paranoia, and mood swings
Causes & Types
These types of dementia can be managed but are not reversible:
- Alzheimer’s disease. This is the most common cause of dementia.
- Vascular dementia. This may occur in people who have long-term high blood pressure, severe hardening of the arteries, or several small strokes. Strokes are the second most common cause of dementia.
- Parkinson’s disease. Dementia is common in people with this condition.
- Dementia with Lewy bodies. It is the second most common type of progressive dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. It can cause short-term memory loss.
- Frontotemporal dementia. This is a group of diseases that includes Pick’s disease.
- Huntington’s disease. This is caused by a genetic mutation
- Leukoencephalopathies. These are diseases that affect the deeper, white-matter brain tissue.
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. This is a rare and fatal condition that destroys brain tissue.
- Some cases of multiple sclerosis (MS) or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Some reversible types are:
- Alcohol or substance use disorder
- Brain Tumors
- Subdural hematomas, blood clots beneath the outer covering of the brain
- Normal-pressure hydrocephalus, a buildup of fluid in the brain
- Metabolic disorders such as a vitamin B12 deficiency
- Low levels of thyroid hormones, called hypothyroidism
- Low blood sugar, called hypoglycemia
- HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND)
- Stage 1: No impairment. The patient has no problems.
- Stage 2: Questionable impairment. The patient begins to have some difficulty but can still function independently.
- Stage 3: Mild impairment. The patient has obvious, but still mild difficulty with daily activities.
- Stage 4: Moderate impairment. The patient needs help with caring for him or herself as well as with carrying out daily activities.
- Stage 5: Moderate to severe impairment
- Stage 6: Severe Impairment; patients are unable to function independently.
- Stage 7: Very severe impairment. Body and mental functions begin to fail.
These are factors that increase your chances of dementia:
- Family history
- Illnesses including diabetes, Down syndrome, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and sleep apnea
- Smoking, heavy alcohol use, poor diet, and lack of exercise
- Brain injury
- Vitamin and nutritional deficiencies
- Infection of the brain (for example, meningitis and syphilis)
To treat dementia, doctors will treat whatever is causing it. About 20% of the causes of dementia are reversible. If the cause of a person’s dementia is not reversible, treatment will focus on managing symptoms, particularly agitation and other emotional concerns.
There’s no sure way to prevent dementia, but there are steps you can take that might help. More research is needed, but it might be beneficial to do the following:
- Keep your mind active
- Be physically and socially active
- Quit smoking
- Get enough vitamins
- Manage cardiovascular risk factors
- Treat health conditions
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Get good-quality sleep