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Dementia - An Overview

Dementia involves damage of nerve cells in the brain, which can occur in several areas of the brain. Dementia affects people differently, depending on the area of the brain affected.

Dementia isn't a specific disease. It describes a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking and social abilities that can interfere with and hamper day to day functioning in a person. While dementia generally involves memory loss, memory loss can be caused due to other reasons and hence that alone is not symptom of dementia. In older adults dementia can be caused if one has Alzheimer's disease

Symptoms of Dementia

As previously mentioned, symptoms of dementia depend on the cause. However, most obvious signs and symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Inappropriate behaviour
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Agitation
  • Personality changes
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty communicating or finding words
  • Difficulty planning and organising
  • Difficulty reasoning or problem solving
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Difficulty with coordinating and motor functions
  • Difficulty handling complex tasks

Risk factors of Dementia

There are a number of risk factors that may increase the chance of getting dementia, some of which can be controlled and others cannot.

Factors that cannot be controlled:

  • Age
  • Mild cognitive impairment
  • Family history of dementia
  • Down's syndrome

Factors that can be controlled:

  • Cardiovascular risk factors
  • Alcohol intake
  • Depression
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Sleep Apnea

Diagnosis of Dementia

Diagnosing dementia and determining its type can be a challenge. Hence, a diagnosis of dementia requires that at least two out of the following core mental functions be impaired enough to interfere with daily living:

  • Memory
  • Language skills
  • Ability to focus and pay attention
  • Ability to reason and problem-solve
  • Visual perception

To check this, the following tests may be run:

Neurological evaluation

  • PET scan
  • CT Scan
  • MRI Scan
  • Psychiatric evaluation
  • Laboratory tests to exclude other causes

Treatment of Dementia

Most types of dementia have no cure, but its symptoms can be managed through medication and therapy.

Medication

Medication for dementia, depending on symptoms include including donepezil, rivastigmine, galantamine, memantine etc.

Vitamin D and foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acid are said to able to prevent dementia.

Therapy

The following techniques may help people with dementia to a great degree:

  • Pet therapy
  • Music therapy
  • Aroma therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Massage therapy
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