Dementia: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments & Remedies
Dementia (a.k.a: Loss of Memory) is a brain disorder in which the patient struggles to think and respond to a situation. Nowadays, the incidence rates of dementia are increasing due to other comorbidities. Education and increasing awareness would help in decreasing the incidence rate.
What Is Dementia?
Dementia is a progressive disease and gradually makes it difficult to perform daily routine activities for an individual with dementia. Routine daily activities may include bathing, dressing, eating, or driving. In later stages, the individual may also find difficulty in walking and speaking.
What Causes Dementia?
Neuro-degeneration or damage to the neurons due to various reasons causes dementia. Formation of lesions in the brain decreased the supply of oxygen to the neurons, or changes in the protein cells of the brain can lead to dementia.
Types of dementia: Dementia is classified into different types based on the underlying cause.
- Alzheimer’s dementia: This condition occurs due to formation of beta amyloid proteins. It affects memory, language, and reasoning ability. It is due to ageing and seen mostly in elderly people over the age of 65.
- Vascular dementia: This condition occurs due to strokes or formation of lacunar infarcts. It affects judgment, motor skills, and balance. It is seen mostly in patients with heart diseases.
- Lewy body dementia: This condition occurs due to formation of Lewy bodies in cortex and midbrain. It affects cognition and causes hallucinations and balancing problems.
- Frontotemporal dementia: This condition affects behavior, personality, and language. It is seen mostly between the age group of 45 and 60.
- Mixed dementia: It is commonly seen in the people over the age of 85 years.
- Other dementia: Dementia associated with other brain related disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, head trauma, alcohol-related, and brain tumors.
Symptoms of Dementia:
Symptoms develop gradually and worsen as dementia progresses to later stages. Common symptoms include:
- Trouble balancing and frequent falls
- Difficulty in eating or swallowing
- Difficulty in following or making a conversation
- Forgetting the names of family members, friends, and everyday objects
- Struggling to remember dates and important events
- Decrease in the ability to talk, read, and write
- Confusion, anxiety, or depression
Risk Factors of Dementia:
Dementia is commonly seen in older people. However, it is not a normal part of ageing. Other risk factors include:
- High blood sugar
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- High waist circumference
- Increase in cortisol levels
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Human immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV)
Complications of Dementia:
Gradual cognitive decline and functional impairment are the major complications of dementia. Other complications of the dementia are:
- Social isolation
- Physical dependence
There is no specific test for diagnosing dementia. A combination of behavioral and cognitive test, blood tests, and imaging scans would help to confirm the diagnosis. Before performing the tests, the healthcare provider would obtain medical and family history.
Diagnostic criteria for dementia based on the cognitive function:
- Memory impairment
- One or more of aphasia (language disturbance), apraxia (decreased motor skills), agnosia (inability to recognize), or decreased ability in executive functioning
- Functional impairment
- No other diagnosed medical or psychiatric disorders
If the patient fulfils the above criteria, then the condition can be diagnosed as dementia.
Blood Tests: Thyroid hormone levels, liver enzymes, electrolyte levels, and complete blood count can be obtained using blood tests.
Imaging Tests: Imaging tests such as computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can help in identifying the affected area of the brain.
Dementia can be reversed in a few cases. If the underlying cause is hypothyroidisim or vitamin B12 deficiency, treating these causes can cure dementia.
In most of the cases, dementia doesn’t have a specific cure or treatment. However, management of dementia can be done using medications that alter chemicals in the brain and supportive therapies.
Medications: Cholinesterase inhibitors such as rivastigmine, tacrine, and donepezil can be prescribed.
Supportive therapy: Occupational therapy can be given to improve motor skills of the patient. Psychological treatment would help in coping with the disease and improving cognitive function. Speech therapy would also help in improving the speech.
Home remedies would help in improving the symptoms of dementia. They are:
- Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids which are a rich source of HDL.
- Nuts such as almonds can help in improving cognition.
- Meditation, massage therapy, and relaxation techniques can reduce stress.
- Aromatherapy and music therapy would also help in decreasing irritability.
To cope with dementia:
- Keep a calendar to remember important events.
- Practice speaking slowly in small sentences.
- Avoid daytime naps.
- Increase physical activity gradually.
Prevention and Cure for Dementia:
Measures that help in the prevention of dementia are:
- Consume healthy diet.
- Exercise regularly.
- Be socially active.
- Monitor your vitamin B12 levels regularly.
- Increase intake of diet rich in folic acid such as green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, and bell peppers.
- Take omega-3 supplements with a health care provider’s advice.
- Quit smoking.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
- Undergo regular screening tests for sugar levels, thyroid function and heart diseases.
- Reduce stress.
- Prevent head injuries.
1. Does dementia cause death?
Dementia doesn’t lead to death. But, as the patient finds difficulty to move in later stages, development of infections or complications associated with dementia may cause death.
2. Does dementia run in families?
Not all, but Alzheimer’s and frontotemporal dementia may occur due to family history. However, development of dementia depends on several other factors such as age, lifestyle, and comorbid conditions.
3. Why dementia is considered a disability?
As dementia causes memory loss, a patient with dementia may forget to perform daily activities such as eating, drinking, or bathing. So, they are physically dependent to perform routine tasks.
4. Is insomnia a symptom of dementia?
Yes, patients with dementia may have sleep problems due to nocturnal confusion and irritability. This is also called as sundowning.