Dementia is a term used to describe a group of disorders associated with abnormal and often irreversible changes in the brain that cause a decline in cognitive functions, such as thinking, memory, and decision making. This impairment is sometimes severe enough to affect independence, quality of life, behaviour, and personal relationships.
It is not the same thing as senility and it is not a normal phenomenon in the aging process. A good number of old people may never developthis condition.
What Are The Types Of Dementia?
Different disease conditions have been associated with dementia. Some of these include:
- Alzheimer’s disease :It is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for about 60-80% of all cases. It is caused by abnormal proteins depositing in the brain, triggering degenerative changes in the brain. This then leads to reduced cognition. Alzheimer’s disease tends to run in families.
- Vascular Dementia: This type of dementia results from death to areas of the brain, due to disorders of blood flow to the brain, such as stroke and high blood cholesterol.
- Lewy body dementia: People with this condition have problems with balance or movement in addition to memory problems. People with lewy body dementia may also hallucinate, that is, see things that others aren’t seeing.
- Fronto-temporal dementia: Most commonly reported symptom here is change in behaviour and personality as the person begins to act as they normally wouldn’t.
Signs and Symptoms of Dementia
Dementia usually affects memory, communication, thinking ability, attention, problem solving, language, mood, movement, reasoning and judgement, etc.
The above usually presents as:
- Forgetting names of close relatives or important dates like birthdays.
- Unable to pay attention to tasks or complete them.
- Difficulty in activities of daily life e.g. buttoning up shirt, brushing, eating, etc.
- Forgetting important memories from the past.
- Getting lost in a familiar environment.
Risks Factors for Dementia
The following factors increase one’s risk of dementia:
Age: Most cases are found in people older than 65 years.
- Family History: A history of dementia in parents or siblings, especially due to Alzheimer’s increases risk of developing the condition by 10-30%.
- Race: Blacks are more likely to have dementia than other races.
- Brain Injury: Severe or traumatic injury to the head increases risk of having dementia.
- Heart disease: Poorly controlled blood pressure, high cholesterol, blood sugar, or smoking increases risk of developing dementia.
How Is Dementia Managed?
Dementia is diagnosed following a series of tests and examinations carried out by the doctor. In some cases, the underlying cause of the dementia can be identified and managed.
Dementia has no cure as the diseases that cause these brain changes are often progressive and irreversible. However, there are medications that can help control the symptoms and improve the brain changes. But no treatment can yet reverse the symptoms. There are other medicines prescribed to improve other physical symptoms that are associated with dementia, such as urinating or defecating on oneself.
People living with dementia require the support of carers or relatives to help them with day-to-day activities. They will also need regular follow-up by a brain specialist, a neurologist, as well as a team of nurses that provide care for persons with dementia.
The brain is made up of different parts, each playing an important role in judgement, memory, reasoning, movement etc. Damage to the brain affects its ability to carry out its normal functions.
Dementia is a serious problem as the brain changes tend to be permanent, but progression can be slowed with treatment. You can lower your risk of having this condition by living a healthy lifestyle, for instance by making healthier diet choices, controlling alcohol consumption, quitting tobacco smoke, and exercising regularly. It is also important to maintain your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar at the recommended range and attend regular medical visits especially as one gets older.