Does Everyone With Dementia Have Dizzy Spells
While different people experience dementia symptoms in different ways, one of the more common signs of Lewy Body Dementia , is dizziness and fainting. This is since Lewy Body Dementia attacks the part of the brain that controls the autonomic nervous system.
The autonomic nervous system controls a variety of essential bodily functions such as maintaining the pulse and blood pressure. When the latter dips dangerously low, it can lead to spells of dizziness and fainting.
One of the precursors of dementia has now been identified as an increase in fainting and dizzy spells something you may have noticed in your loved one before they were diagnosed with a dementia-related illness.
A recent study carried out in the Netherlands looked at 6,000 people over a 15-year timeframe and found that people who repeatedly suffered periods of low blood pressure otherwise known as hypotension and associated dizziness were 4% more likely to develop dementia at a later point in life.
Causes Of Balance Problems
People are more likely to have problems with balance as they get older. But age is not the only reason these problems occur. In some cases, you can help reduce your risk for certain balance problems.
Some balance disorders are caused by problems in the inner ear. The part of the inner ear that is responsible for balance is the vestibular system, also known as the labyrinth. A condition called labyrinthitis occurs when the labyrinth becomes infected or swollen. It is typically accompanied by vertigo and imbalance. Upper respiratory infections, other viral infections, and, less commonly, bacterial infections can also lead to labyrinthitis.
Some diseases of the circulatory system, such as stroke, can cause dizziness and other balance problems. Low blood pressure can also cause dizziness. Head injury and many medicines may also lead to balance problems.
Check with your doctor if you notice a problem while taking a medication. Ask if other medications can be used instead. If not, ask if the dosage can be safely reduced. Sometimes it cannot. However, your doctor will help you get the medication you need while trying to reduce unwanted side effects.
Common Lewy Body Dementia Symptoms:
The hallmark of LBD is vivid, visual hallucinations. Other core features include:
- Changes in thinking and reasoning, often accompanied by memory loss
- Shuffling gait, hunched posture, balance problems and rigid muscles
- Wide fluctuations between confusion and alertness, varying from day-to-day of at different times of day
- Problems processing visual information
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The Seven Stages Of Dementia
One of the most difficult things to hear about dementia is that, in most cases, dementia is irreversible and incurable. However, with an early diagnosis and proper care, the progression of some forms of dementia can be managed and slowed down. The cognitive decline that accompanies dementia conditions does not happen all at once – the progression of dementia can be divided into seven distinct, identifiable stages.
Learning about the stages of dementia can help with identifying signs and symptoms early on, as well as assisting sufferers and caretakers in knowing what to expect in further stages. The earlier dementia is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can start.
Poor Physical Performance And Increased Risk Of Alzheimers And Dementia
Wang, Larson, Bowen, and van Belle conducted a study published in 2006 to determine if there was any link between the level of physical ability and the risk for onset dementia and Alzheimers Disease. The researchers studied 2,288 people over the age of 65 over the course of seven years. Of those individuals who scored poorly on the physical performance tests, 319 participants had developed dementia 221 of them were specifically diagnosed with AD. The results were clear in that lower physical performance levels were directly related to an increased risk of dementia and even suggested that poor physical functioning may precede the onset of dementia and AD.
The finding is well within previous multivariate studies, as summarized by Allan, Ballard, Rowan, and Kenny , all of which concluded that significant risk factors for falling are largely characteristic of dementia symptoms. Some of those factors include visual and cognitive impairment, mobility impairment, balance and gait impairments, muscle weakness, and incontinence. The evidence in these studies supports the assumption that known balance problems should be considered a particular risk for developing dementias and particularly dementias with Lewy Bodies , a dementia characterized by the damaging microscopic deposits causing brain damage. DLB is the third most prevalent form of dementia and accounts for roughly 10 to 25 percent of cases at any given time, including AD.
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Coping With A Balance Disorder
Some people with a balance disorder may not be able to fully relieve their dizziness and will need to find ways to cope with it. A vestibular rehabilitation therapist can help you develop an individualized treatment plan.
If you have trouble with your balance, talk to your doctor about whether its safe to drive, and about ways to lower your risk of falling during daily activities, such as walking up or down stairs, using the bathroom, or exercising. To reduce your risk of injury from dizziness, avoid walking in the dark. You should also wear low-heeled shoes or walking shoes outdoors. If necessary, use a cane or walker, and modify conditions at your home and workplace, such as by adding handrails.
Can Dementia Be Prevented
No known way to prevent irreversible dementia or even many types of reversible dementia exists. The following may help prevent certain types of dementia:
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, moderate use of alcohol, and no smoking or substance abuse
- Taking precautions to prevent infections
- Using protective equipment such as a seat belt or motorcycle helmet to prevent head injury
The following may allow early treatment and at least partial reversal of dementia:
- Being alert for symptoms and signs that suggest dementia
- Early recognition of underlying medical conditions, such as hypoxia, HIV infection, low glucose levels, or low sodium levels
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Understanding Balance And Gait
One of the first signs of loss of mobility, is walking unsteadily and shuffling. Your loved one may seem slow or clumsy, causing more accidents and bumping into things. This slowing is typically associated with a syndrome called parkinsonism. Other signs of Parkinsonism include the shortening of steps, stooped posture, and the narrowing of the space between feet. Turning can become more difficult, because the person no longer pivots on their heels, but instead turn in a series of short steps. During the turns, their balance can become unstable, increasing the changes that they fall backward.
Stage : Moderately Severe Dementia
When the patient begins to forget the names of their children, spouse, or primary caregivers, they are most likely entering stage 6 of dementia and will need full time care. In the sixth stage, patients are generally unaware of their surroundings, cannot recall recent events, and have skewed memories of their personal past. Caregivers and loved ones should watch for:
- Delusional behavior
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Common Causes Of Falls In People With Dementia
People with Alzheimers and other types of dementia tend to be at a high risk of falling. They are more than three times more likely to fracture their hip when they fall, which leads to surgery and immobility. The rate of death following a hip fracture for those with Alzheimer’s is also increased. Thus, fall prevention for people with dementia is critical.
One way to reduce falls in people with dementia is to understand why they fall. If we know what makes our loved ones more likely to fall, we can try to anticipate those needs and decrease falls.
Laura Porter / Verywell
These factors are the most common causes of falls in people with dementia.
What Happens In Vascular Dementia
Vascular dementia can cause different symptoms depending on where the blood vessels are damaged in the brain. For example, a person who had a stroke may have sudden problems with memory, balance, or speech. However, a person can have several strokes that may be unnoticeably small, but the damage can add up over time.
Many people with vascular dementia have trouble with memory. Others may have difficulty with organization and solving complex problems, slowed thinking, or being easily distracted. People with vascular dementia may also have changes in mood or behavior, such as irritability, loss of interest, or depression.
Sometimes, people with vascular dementia have trouble with balance and movement. This might include weakness on one side of the body, and the symptoms may get worse over time.
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Diagnosing Lewy Body Dementia
It is important to diagnose LBD, as it has some unique features to be taken into consideration in ones treatment.
Like most other types of dementia, LBD is conclusively diagnosed by examination of brain tissue after death. However during life, the diagnosis is made based on the clinical presentation and the presence of the core features of the disease.
Due to unfamiliarity in the medical community and the way in which symptoms sometimes manifest, LBD is often underdiagnosed. It is common for those with LBD to be diagnosed with Parkinsons disease only to have treatment reveal greater cognitive deficiencies and hallucinations, leading to a later but more accurate LBD diagnosis.
How Do You Diagnose Lewy Body Dementia
Currently there is no test to confirm whether or not you have Lewy Body Dementia. If you think you or a loved one might have LBD you should make an appointment with your doctor. At that appointment your doctor might give you what is called a clinical diagnosis which means that the doctor will use his or her best judgment to confirm that you have LBD.
A postmortem autopsy is the only way to conclusively diagnose LBD.
What Diseases Or Conditions May Worsen Dementia
Treatable disorders revealed by the diagnostic evaluation should receive prompt attention.
- Common, treatable conditions that cause or worsen dementia include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, infections, head injuries, brain tumors, hydrocephalus, anemia, hypoxia, hormone imbalances, and nutritional deficiencies.
- Treatment varies by disorder, but some treatments may rapidly reverse the dementia symptoms.
Can Dementia Cause Poor Balance
There are many reasons that people can start to lose their balance as they get older. Often, these causes can be linked back to the brain. In some cases, disorders of the brain that have progressed quite far can cause a loss of balance. However, some early-stage diseases can also cause a loss of balance.
Dementia can cause poor balance at several stages. Dementia is actually a set of symptoms that can be caused by several different disorders, including Alzheimers disease, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and many other kinds.
Although Alzheimers disease is a memory and thinking disorder, it can actually interfere with a persons balance too. These problems become more commonplace as the disease progresses, but many people do not link these two problems together, which is why vascular dementia can actually go untreated for a long time.
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How Is Vascular Dementia Treated
Vascular dementia can’t be cured. The main goal is to treat the underlying conditions that affect the blood flow to the brain. This can help cut the risk of further damage to brain tissue.
Such treatments may include:
- Medicines to manage blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, diabetes, and problems with blood clotting
- Lifestyle changes, such as following a healthy diet, getting physical activity, quitting smoking, and quitting or decreasing alcohol consumption
- Procedures to improve blood flow to the brain, such as carotid endarterectomy, angioplasty, and stenting the carotid arteries are located in the neck and provide blood flow from the heart to the brain
- Medicines, such as cholinesterase inhibitors to treat the symptoms of dementia or antidepressants to help with depression or other symptoms
Is It Alzheimer’s Or Another Kind Of Dementia
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and causes significant memory loss, in addition to multiple other symptoms. If you think your memory loss could be caused by Alzheimer’s, review the symptoms and make an appointment with your physician for an assessment. Although Alzheimer’s typically affects those over the age of 65, early-onset Alzheimer’s can occur in those as young as 40.
Memory loss can also be caused by other kinds of dementia, such as vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and several others. Problems with memory should be discussed with your doctor so that any reversible cause can be found and treated, or so that treatment for Alzheimer’s or dementia can begin as soon as possible if this is the cause.
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Support Groups And Counseling For Caregivers
Caring for a person with dementia can be very difficult. It affects every aspect of your life, including family relationships, work, financial status, social life, and physical and mental health. You may feel unable to cope with the demands of caring for a dependent, difficult relative. Besides the sadness of seeing the effects of your loved one’s disease, you may feel frustrated, overwhelmed, resentful, and angry. These feelings may, in turn, leave you feeling guilty, ashamed, and anxious. Depression in caregivers is not uncommon.
Different caregivers have different thresholds for tolerating these challenges. For many caregivers, just “venting” or talking about the frustrations of caregiving can be enormously helpful. Others need more but may feel uneasy about asking for the help they need. One thing is certain, though: If the caregiver is given no relief, he or she can burn out, develop his or her own mental and physical problems, and become unable to care for the person with dementia.
This is why support groups were invented. Support groups are groups of people who have lived through the same set of difficult experiences and want to help themselves and others by sharing coping strategies. Mental health professionals strongly recommend that family caregivers take part in support groups. Support groups serve a number of different purposes for a person living with the extreme stressof being a caregiver for a person with dementia.
What Are Potentially Treatable Causes Of Dementia
The dementia in treatable conditions may be reversible or partially reversible, even if the underlying disease or damage is not. However, readers should note that if underlying brain damage is extensive or severe, these causes may be classified as irreversible by the individual’s physician.
There is no specific test for dementia. However, dementia may be diagnosed if at least two of the following core mental functions are significantly impaired, according to some researchers:
- Attentiveness/focus on a problem or subject
- Visual perception
In some people, the signs and symptoms of dementia are easily recognized in others, they can be very subtle. A careful and thorough evaluation is needed to identify their true cause.
An assessment of dementia symptoms should include a mental status evaluation. This evaluation uses various “pencil and paper,””talking,” and physical tests to identify brain dysfunction. A more thorough type of testing, performed by a psychologist, is called neuropsychologic testing.
Lab tests may be used to identify or rule out possible causes of dementia.
In some cases, imaging studies of the brain may be necessary to detect conditions such as normal pressure hydrocephalus, brain tumor, or infarction or bleeding in the brain.
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Symptoms Of Lewy Body Dementia
If you think you or a loved one has LBD there are several symptoms to look for.
- Hallucinations- Hallucinations is one of the first symptoms to appear or to be recognized in individuals. This is when you see something that is not really there. You might see shapes, animals, or even people. It is possible that you might also hear sounds, smell things that dont exist, or touch things that are not there.
- Movements- When you have LBD your movements slow drastically. You might move slower, have more rigid muscles, or develop a shuffling gait. You may also see things like
- Muscle stiffness
- Fewer facial expressions than before
- Weak or tired voice
Where To Get Help
- Your local community health service
- Your local council
- National Dementia Helpline Dementia Australia Tel. 1800 100 500
- Aged Care Assessment Services Tel. 1300 135 090
- My Aged Care Tel. 1800 200 422
- Cognitive Dementia and Memory Service clinics Tel. 1300 135 090
- Carers Victoria Tel. 1800 242 636
- Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centres Tel 1800 052 222
- Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service Tel. 1800 699 799 for 24-hour telephone advice for carers and care workers
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Its Not Necessarily Alzheimers
More than 50 conditions can cause or mimic the symptoms of dementia, and a small percentage of dementias are reversible. Two common examples are dementia caused by vitamin B12 deficiency or an underactive thyroid . Getting the right diagnosis is important so that you know what options you have, because symptoms subside when the underlying problem is treated.