Dementia is a symptom which is caused by several different diseases or conditions. The definition of dementia is the loss of mental capability and functions. These functions include things such as thinking, memory and the ability to reason. This loss can be either gradual or sudden in nature. When a person has dementia it is severe enough to interfere with their daily living skills. The symptoms that make up dementia can greatly change a person’s personality as well as their moods and their behavior. Dementia can be treated dependant upon the underlying cause.
Dementia occurs when the areas of the brain that control things such as speech, thinking, or memory are affected by disease or disorder. One of the most common causes of dementia is Alzheimer’s Disease however there are many other causes of dementia. Since there are many different causes of dementia we feel that they need to be discussed here. People need to know all of the different causes as some conditions are easily treatable while others are not! It is important that a person who is being diagnosed and treated for dementia to be assessed correctly due to this.
The first and most common causes of dementia are the diseases that cause the nerve cells in the brain to deteriorate or degenerate. These would include Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease and Huntington’s. The second cause of dementia are disorders that affect the blood vessels and the blood supply to the brain. One example of this is a stroke. The third cause of dementia is drug and alcohol abuse. The fourth cause is due to nutritional deficiencies such as Vitamin B12 and folates.
Next, head injuries can cause dementia. This can be a single severe head trauma or an accumulation of less severe head injuries such as that has been seen in the case of professional boxers. Abnormal amounts of fluid accumulation in the brain can cause dementia. The cause of this condition includes brain tumors, injuries, infections such as meningitis and congenital abnormalities. Last there are other systemic illnesses such as kidney or liver disease that can cause dementia.
What types of dementia can be easily treated? Dementia that is due to alcohol or drug abuse can be treated and possibly reversed. If this disorder is caused by nutritional deficiency that disorder can be rectified and hopefully the dementia will resolve itself. Certain types of head injuries and brain tumors can be treated with surgery and remove the tumor or the increased pressure on the brain which is causing the dementia. This should allow the condition to resolve. Other systemic disorders that can be treated such as hypoglycemia or metabolic imbalance due to kidney disease which should allow dementia to resolve.
Dementia cannot be cured when it is due to Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Huntington’s, damage due to strokes, AIDS dementia, or Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. These diseases usually cause dementia that is progressive in nature. As stated above, dementia due to Alzheimer’s Disease is one of the most common causes seen today. Researchers feel that in the future half of the people who live to be 80 will have dementia due to Alzheimer’s Disease.
There are new medications available to treat both Alzheimer’s Disease and the dementia that it causes. These drugs are designed to slow down the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the brain. Researchers have found that this neurotransmitter is found in decreased amounts in people who have Alzheimer’s Disease. This neurotransmitter is responsible for the formation of memories. Studies have shown that these drugs can help in slowing down the decline of mental function in patients who have Alzheimer’s Disease as well as help to temporarily stabilize or improve their memories or their thinking abilities. The hope is that these drugs will slow down or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease maybe even improving certain aspects of dementia noted above.
Early detection and proper diagnosis of dementia is key to getting the proper treatment for this condition. A thorough history, consultation, examination and laboratory work up should be done before any diagnosis is made for dementia since there are so many causes of this condition. It is very important that the proper diagnosis and treatment are obtained as soon as symptoms are seen.
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