List The Most Common Causes Of Dementia
The most common causes of dementia are:
- Alzheimers disease This is the most common cause of dementia. During the course of the disease, the chemistry and structure of the brain changes, leading to the death of brain cells.
- Vascular Dementia If the oxygen supply to the brain fails, brain cells may die. The symptoms of vascular dementia can occur either suddenly, following a stroke, or over time, through a series of small strokes.
- Dementia with Lewy Bodies This form of dementia gets its name from tiny spherical structures that develop inside nerve cells. Their presence in the brain leads to the degeneration of brain tissue.
- Frontotemporal Dementia In fronto-temporal dementia, damage is usually focused in the front part of the brain. Personality and behaviour are initially more affected than memory.
What Happens In Dementia
People with dementia may have different symptoms, depending on the type and stage of their particular dementia. A persons symptoms depend on which part of the brain is affected by the disease process, and they may change over time as the diseases progress to involve different areas of the brain. Different types of dementia tend to target particular parts of the brain. For example, the part of the brain that is important for the formation of new memories is usually affected early on in AD, which is why short-term memory loss is often one of the first symptoms of AD. Other common symptoms in dementia include difficulties with communication, planning and organization, navigation, personality changes, and psychiatric symptoms such as depression, anxiety, delusions and hallucinations.
What Research Is Being Done
Scientists all over the world are working hard to gain a better understanding of the many different aspects of dementia. This might help to develop preventive measures, improved early detection diagnostic tools, better and longer-lasting treatments, and even cures.
For example, early research suggests a common asthma drug called zileuton might slow, stop, and potentially reverse the development of proteins in the brain. These proteins are common in people with Alzheimers disease.
Another recent research development suggests deep brain stimulation could be an effective way to limit symptoms of Alzheimers in older patients. This method has been used to treat symptoms of Parkinsons disease, such as tremors, for decades.
Now, researchers are looking at the possibility of slowing the progression of Alzheimers.
Scientists are investigating a variety of factors they think might influence the development of dementia, including:
- genetic factors
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Can You Prevent Dementia
People who have a parent or sibling with dementia may feel doomed by their genetics. However, while researchers believe that genetics matter, they also hold that other variables come into play. Researchers are actively investigating lifestyle and environmental factors that may increase or decrease ones risk of developing dementia.
To prevent vascular dementia, for instance, the best way to protect the brain appears to be to protect the heart. This includes not smoking exercising keeping blood pressure, cholesterol, and sugar levels within recommended limits and following a healthy diet thats low in red meat and high in fruits and vegetables.
Scientists are actively investigating other lifestyle factors that can affect dementia risk. There is ongoing research on social engagement that analyzes factors like marital status and emotional connectedness. Some evidence supports an association between high levels of social engagement and decreased dementia risk.
Among other areas of study is the link between sleep and dementia, with one small study associating every minute of lost REM sleep with a 9 percent increase in dementia risk.
Impact On Families And Carers
In 2019, informal carers spent on average 5 hours per day providing care for people living with dementia. This can be overwhelming . Physical, emotional and financial pressures can cause great stress to families and carers, and support is required from the health, social, financial and legal systems. Fifty percent of the global cost of dementia is attributed to informal care.
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How Is Dementia Diagnosed
To start your diagnosis process, you need to visit a GP. They will run a preliminary check and ask you questions about how you manage your daily activities. To ensure all other possible causes of memory loss are ruled out, the GP may also organise blood tests.
If your symptoms are mild, the GP may refer you to a specialist diagnostician, like a neurologist or a psychiatrist who specialises in old-age conditions. They too may request additional tests like brain scans or complex memory tests.
Following these assessments, you will typically receive your diagnosis and receive treatment if needed.
Effect Of Brain Changes On Functioning
With the progression of Alzheimers disease, the brain shrinks and the individuals ability to function on nearly all levels is compromised. One of the big effects of brain changes associated with dementia is memory problems. This may include progressive memory loss, lack of orientation to time and place, inability to recall relationships, confabulation , and the belief that memories from long ago are present or relatively recent.
Another big effect of these brain changes is speech problems, including difficulty finding the correct words to use, vagueness of speech, very limited language ability, and garbled speech.
Changes in personality and behavior, inability to organize thoughts, and difficulty or inability to perform daily living activities are also common effects of brain changes. In the final stage of dementia, an individual will often lose the ability to communicate and they may no longer be able to recognize their loved ones.
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Normal Memory Changes Vs Dementia Symptoms
Its something we all have to face but the inevitable changes of aging can still be both humbling and surprising. But while experiencing wrinkling skin, fading hair color, and mild, short-term memory loss is common as we age, severe and rapid memory loss is definitely NOT a part of normal aging. In fact, many people are able to preserve their brainpower as they get older by staying mentally and physically active and making other healthy lifestyle choices.
Differentiating the signs of dementia from normal aging can help to either set your mind at rest or encourage you to begin taking steps to slow the progression of symptoms. In broad terms, normal memory changes associated with aging dont significantly interfere with your ability to function in your daily life. These may include:
Slower thinking and problem solving The speed of learning slows down short-term memory takes longer to function reaction time increases.
More distractedness. All of the interruptions make learning more difficult.
Slower recall A greater need for hints to jog the memory.
Distinguishing between normal memory loss and dementia symptoms is not an exact science but there are some clues to look for:
Continue Learning About Dementia
Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.
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Experience Living With Dementia
Dementia is not a disease but a set of symptoms which decreases the ability to think, memory and communication skills of human beings. It also declines the skills that needed to carry out daily activities.
There are many causes of dementia. Few are:
- Alzheimers disease ·
- Front temporal disorders ·
- Parkinsons disease ·
Depending on the form of dementia peoples ability and disability fluctuates. It is not necessarily to think that people with dementia are always forgetful. Like, people with Fronto-temporal dementia are very less forgetful than Alzheimer disease. Their memory remains intact but their personality and behaviour noticeably changes.
Dementia with Lewy bodies interrupts the brains normal functioning and affect the persons memory, concentration and speech skills. It has similar symptoms to Parkinsons disease such as tremors, slowness of movement and speech difficulties. People with vascular dementia may suffer from incontinence or seizure where other types of dementia may not affect those. However level of ability and disability depend on individuals age and condition of dementia. People who are living with dementia in earlier age such as 60s-70s are less dependable than people living with dementia at the age or over 70s or 80s. People have different stamina in different ages. So, their ability and disability fluctuated and level of support are varied as well.
Less Common Forms Of Dementia
Picks Disease affects personality, orientation and behavior. It may be more common in women and occurs at an early age.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease progresses rapidly along with mental deterioration and involuntary movements.
Huntingtons Disease is an inherited, degenerative disease. The disease causes involuntary movement and usually begins during mid-life.
Parkinsons Disease Dementia can develop in the later stages of Parkinsons disease, a progressive disorder of the central nervous system.
Lewy Body Dementia causes symptoms similar to Alzheimers disease. People with Lewy Body dementia experience hallucinations and can become fearful.
Mild cognitive impairment
Mild cognitive impairment is a stage between normal aging and dementia and involves problems with memory, language, or other cognitive functions. But unlike those with full-blown dementia, people with MCI are still able to function in their daily lives without relying on others.
Many people with MCI eventually develop Alzheimers disease or another type of dementia. However, others plateau at a relatively mild stage of decline and are able to live independently. Some people with mild cognitive impairment even return to normal.
Symptoms of MCI include:
- Frequently losing or misplacing things.
- Frequently forgetting conversations, appointments, or events.
- Difficulty remembering the names of new acquaintances.
- Difficulty following the flow of a conversation.
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Frontotemporal Dementia With Parkinsonism
One form of familial FTD, also known as frontotemporal dementia with Parkinsonism-17 , is caused by genetic changes in the gene for tau protein, located on chromosome 17. No other risk factors for this condition are known.
FTDP-17 is rare and accounts for only three per cent of all cases of dementia. Symptoms progressively get worse over time and usually appear between the ages of 40 and 60. The condition affects both thinking and behavioural skills and movements such as rigidity, lack of facial expression and problems with balance .
It can be distressing to be told that you have a genetic disorder or are at risk of having one. Genetic counselling provides the person and their family with information about a genetic disorder and its likely impact on their lives. This can assist a person with FTDP-17 to make informed medical and personal decisions about how to manage their condition and the challenges it presents to their health and wellbeing. Prenatal genetic counselling is also available for parents to help them decide about a pregnancy that may be at risk of FTDP-17.
What Causes Dementia
The cause of dementia is unknown in many cases. Research is ongoing to better understand what causes dementia, but the underlying mechanism is a thought to be related to a build-up of proteins in the brain that interferes with how the brain functions or works. Neurodegenerative diseases, like frontotemporal dementia, lead to abnormal protein build ups in the brain. Different protein build-ups are seen in different types of dementia. For example, proteins called beta-amyloid and tau are associated with Alzheimers disease while the protein alpha-synuclein is associated with Lewy body dementia. Changes in the blood vessels in the brain may result in vascular dementia. In a minority of cases, a reversible cause of a persons dementia can be identified and treated. Screening for these reversible causes is part of the diagnostic evaluation for anyone with changes in memory or thinking.
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How The Brain Works
The brain is a communications center consisting of billions of neurons, or nerve cells. It is the most complex organ in the body. This three-pound mass of gray and white matter is at the center of all human activityyou need it to drive a car, to enjoy a meal, to breathe, to create an artistic masterpiece, and to enjoy everyday activities. The brain regulates your bodys basic functions it enables you to interpret and respond to everything you experience and shapes your thoughts, emotions, and behavior .
Networks of neurons pass messages back and forth among different structures within the brain, the spinal cord, and the nerves in the rest of the body . These nerve networks coordinate and regulate everything we feel, think, and do . Dementia interrupts the efficient function of these networks, affecting every aspect of a persons life.
Alzheimers disease and other types of dementia damage the brain. The most significant and obvious damage occurs in the critically important part of the brain called the cerebrum. The cerebrum fills up most of our skull and is divided into four lobes:
The Human Brain
Hemispheres of the Brain
Three Main Sections of the Human Brain
Dementia With Lewy Bodies
Dementia with Lewy Bodies is the third most common cause of dementia in the UK, affecting 15% of people with dementia.
Research surrounding DLB is limited, and findings so far suggest genetics may have an impact while other potential factors are still being explored.
DLB is often comparable with Alzheimers in terms of symptoms, but many also experience vivid hallucinations, develop sleep disorders and generally struggle to focus.
Those suffering with DLB can also be physically affected, often experiencing tremors and slowed movement from muscle stiffness.
Much like Alzheimers, the progression of DLB varies from person to person.
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The Role Of Inflammation
Inflammation has long been thought to be a side effect of dementias such as Alzheimers, as the body ramps up its immune system in response to the disease. But recent research has confirmed that inflammation actually contributes to the disease process. One clue was a report that people treated with anti-inflammatory drugs for arthritis had a lower incidence of Alzheimers. This has now been backed up by large genetic studies.
Normally, the brains inflammatory cells help to prevent damaging build-up of amyloid-ß by clearing it away, and its thought that mutations in inflammatory genes hamper this process. Inflammation is a sign of the immune system kicking into gear, and in the initial stages of disease, this is beneficial. However, in the case of Alzheimers, when the disease becomes more advanced, chronic inflammation can set in and add to the toxic insult the brain receives. The brains immune response to inflammation is therefore believed to play two critical roles in developing Alzheimers disease.
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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Diagnosing Dementia: How Is It Done
Diagnosing dementia isnt difficult identifying the underlying brain disorder can be. The challenge is that symptoms of different types of dementia may overlap, or people can have multiple types of dementia at the same time .
Getting the right diagnosis, however, is critical to getting the best treatment. Usually, a specialist like a neurologist is best equipped to do the job, although other specialists like a geriatric psychiatrist, a neuropsychologist, or a geriatrician may play a part.
The first task is ruling out treatable or reversible conditions with symptoms that can mimic dementia, such as depression or a thyroid problem. Physicians take a detailed medical history, conduct a physical exam and a neuropsychological assessment, and order lab tests.
Neuropsychological assessments help doctors see cognitive patterns that indicate the presence of a particular brain disorder. Difficulty creating a strategy to solve a hypothetical problem, for instance, is a sign of vascular dementia.
Physicians may also examine the brain for visible abnormalities by using scans such as MRI, CT, and PET.
Vascular Contributions To Alzheimers Disease
People with dementia seldom have only Alzheimers-related changes in their brains. Any number of vascular issuesproblems that affect blood vessels, such as beta-amyloid deposits in brain arteries, atherosclerosis , and mini-strokesmay also be at play.
Vascular problems may lead to reduced blood flow and oxygen to the brain, as well as a breakdown of the blood-brain barrier, which usually protects the brain from harmful agents while allowing in glucose and other necessary factors. In a person with Alzheimers, a faulty blood-brain barrier prevents glucose from reaching the brain and prevents the clearing away of toxic beta-amyloid and tau proteins. This results in inflammation, which adds to vascular problems in the brain. Because it appears that Alzheimers is both a cause and consequence of vascular problems in the brain, researchers are seeking interventions to disrupt this complicated and destructive cycle.
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Why Does Dementia Have An Impact On Everyday Life
Because its a progressive and degenerative brain disease, the effects of dementia impede messages that are transmitted in the brain. These messages help people execute day-to-day activities that we often see as mundane and take for granted. Here are the following functions that dementia affects, and the ADL this alters.
Chemical Changes To The Brain
Within the different regions of the brain, the work of forming thoughts and moving our bodies happens on a cellular level. Chemically, tiny electrical charges or signals move through individual cells and parts of the brain. When these processes are compromised, so too are basic brain tasks, such as thinking, feeling, and forming and recalling memories.
In an individual with dementia, neurons carrying signals to and from the brain are destroyed. Signals transmitted between brain cells carried by neurotransmitters are interrupted, and connections between nerve cells of the brain become broken. This is why someone with dementia has problems with thoughts and movement: The communication between cells in their bodies has broken down.
Beta-Amyloid Plaques and Tau TanglesTwo toxic proteins appear to be responsible for the cellular brain damage: beta-amyloid and tau.
When Alzheimers disease begins to develop, part of the neuron that normally helps promote cell growth and survival breaks down in an abnormal way and begins producing a toxic protein called beta-amyloid. Beta-amyloid plaques, which form between neurons, damage neurons in at least two ways: They affect the neurons receptor for a particular neurotransmitter, and that, in turn, interferes with the cells ability to function and send messages to other neurons.
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