Dementia is mainly a type of disease characterized by the loss of memory, less thinking, or mental abilities. However, it is not a particular disease but rather a general term that affects a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. In the starting phase of dementia, the functioning of a person is generally affected, but at its severe stage, the person completely depends on others for their basic and daily activities.
In the past, it was basically known as the normal part of aging because it is most common in people after age 80, but as per scientific results, most people who have aged more than 90 don’t have any signs of dementia.
Symptoms of dementia
A majority of people think that only loss of memory is a sign of dementia, but it’s just an early sign of dementia as its symptoms can vary greatly and may include:
- Confusion and memory loss
- Poor judgment in regular activities
- Problems in balancing and moving
- Acting impulsively
- Repeating questions
- Loss of reduced visual perception
- Unable to recognize objects or people,
- Reduced ability to solve problems and plan ahead of time
In general, when irregular changes take place in the nerve cells of the brain, it leads to dementia. However, the main cause of dementia is still unknown. In some cases, the working of nerve cells or neurons stops, which eventually leads to the mortality of a person.
As there is no proven prevention of dementia, and no pre-medication or treatment is available to reduce the risk factors of dementia, a leading healthy lifestyle may help to reduce the risk.
Types of dementia
Irregular changes in brain cells lead to the development of dementia. The four most common types of dementia are as follows:
- Frontotemporal dementia (FTD): It is an extremely rare type of dementia disease. It is mostly seen in people younger than 60. The affected area of the brain is known as FTD. Abnormal amounts or forms of tau and TDP-43 proteins that accumulate inside neurons in the frontal and temporal lobes are mainly responsible for FTD.
- Alzheimer’s Disease: This form of dementia is very common among older adults. It is generally associated with changes in nerve cells and abnormal deposits of proteins that form amyloid plaques and tau tangles throughout the brain.
- Vascular dementia: When some vascular changes are recognized in the brain, it is known as vascular dementia disease. This disease is defined by an injury or interruption in the flow of blood in small vessels.
This disease is generally associated with the abnormal deposits of the alpha-synuclein protein called “Lewy bodies,” which affect the brain’s chemical messengers. Symptoms of LBD mainly include problems with movement, behavior, and thinking.
Treatments for dementia
To provide proper treatment, doctors must diagnose dementia by analyzing the complete medical history and tests of patients. In some cases, a scan of the brain, blood tests, an evaluation of mental health, and genetic tests help to determine the diagnosis.
It is very difficult to diagnose an accurate form of dementia as all forms of dementia have similar symptoms. It is also possible that a person is suffering from more than one form of dementia. At the present time, no medical treatment is available to stop or reduce dementia disease. The best way is to speak with your doctor to find out what might work best for you.
Common types of dementia
Dementia disease is not only a part of normal aging. It can develop in any age group of people, while symptoms may vary. The four most common types of dementia disease are as follows:
Alzeimer’s Disease: This is one of the most common types of dementia. Generally, 60–80 percent of cases of Alzeimer’s Disease are reported. Some irregular and specific changes are responsible for this disease. The genetic history of a family is a very important risk factor.
- Mild-Wandering and getting lost & repeating questions
- Moderate-Problems recognizing friends and family and impulsive behavior
- Severe-Cannot communicate
Vascular dementia – Blood clotting or disrupted blood flow in the brain is responsible for 90% of all cases. High blood pressure and cholesterol are the main risk factors. If a person gets more strokes, the situation can also become severe.
- Forgetting current or past events,
- Misplacing items
- Trouble following instructions or learning new information?
- Hallucinations or delusions
- Poor judgment
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD): Changes in personality and behavior are mainly associated with this type of dementia. People affected by FTD may behave inappropriately and can also face problems while speaking and understanding.
- Frontal Lobe: Behavioral Symptoms
- Difficulty resisting the impulse to use or touch objects.
- Compulsive eating
- Temporal Lobe: Language and Emotional Disorders
- unable to understand the meaning of words or speak properly.
- Difficulty understanding facial expressions and personal relationships
Lewy body dementia (LBD) – Not only is memory loss a symptom of dementia. balancing and movement are also associated with LBD. Most people experience these types of issues and have trouble sleeping at night.
- Cognitive Decline
- Inability to concentrate, pay attention, or stay alert.
- Disorganized or illogical ideas.
- Movement Problems
- Muscle rigidity
- Loss of coordination
- Face expression has been reduced.
- Sleep Disorders
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Visual Hallucinations
What is the main cause of dementia?
Dementia can be caused in multiple ways. The most common cause is disruptions of blood cells. It leads to inappropriate behavior of the person and facing issues while moving or standing. Our brain contains billions of neurons that transmit signals and information. An injury mainly responsible for the demolition of brain cells that led to the breakdown of connections between neurons and most of the parts of the brain began to shrink. Nonetheless, the damage is widespread because many neurons stop functioning and lose connection with other neurons and die. In some cases, it also led to the death of the person.
Dementia with Lewy bodies
When an abnormal deposit of protein (alpha-synuclein) takes place in the brain, it is mainly associated with dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). It is one of the most common types of dementia. It generally affects the thinking, behavior, mood, and movement of the person. It’s a very rare disease to be found in people under age 65. In the initial stage, it hardly shows any symptoms of DLB and seems like a general psychiatric disorder, but with time, it becomes severe and affects the brain of the person.
Cause of DLB: At present, the main cause of the deposit of protein in the brain is still unknown, but scientists are learning about the risk factors for DLB. Age is not only a factor and also no particular lifestyle has been proven to enhance the risk of DLB. Dementia with Lewy bodies can be caused due to mutations in genes (SNCA & SNCB). These genes are mainly responsible for transmitting instructions for making proteins. These proteins are involved in the process that allows neurons to change and adapt, which is important for learning and understanding.
Treatments: Currently, there is no treatment or medical care available to stop or reduce DLB. Its symptoms may require long-term treatment that includes therapy, medications, and counseling.
Confusion, hallucinations, thinking, and sleep issues can all be alleviated with medication.
Therapies like speech therapy, physiotherapy, etc. are helpful in treatment with movement, daily activities, and communication.
Private Duty Nursing Care Services are better options for the families of patients who are suffering from DLB because a skilled caregiver can recommend several ways to improve the quality of life for both people with DLB and their families. People suffering from DLB may get benefit from therapies, medicines, and exercise. So, it is best to talk with your doctor about what type of treatment you need.
Symptoms and signs of dementia
Dementia is mainly associated with sudden and rapid changes in memory and mental ability. Dementia disease is not a matter of aging. There are several symptoms seen in a person who is affected by dementia. Most of the symptoms generally overlap with normal aging-related cognitive changes. There are mainly two types of changes recognized in a person:
- Psychological changes
- Anxiety: It is one of the most common for people, but it can make the level of dementia more critical.
- Depression: It can occur at any stage of life, but it can also evolve as one of the causes of dementia, in which a person feels sadness and shows a loss of interest in activities and is responsible for several physical and emotional problems.
- Changes in personality: Sudden changes in personality and loss of interest are observed.
- Changes in behavior: frequent mood swings, increased sensitivity to change and increased anxiety.
- Agitation: It is a state of mind, usually due to anxiety or tension, that causes obvious restlessness.
- Hallucinations are sudden changes observed in the brain. Memory loss and cognitive issues are common in hallucinations.
- Cognitive changes
- Difficulty in solving problems: A person may begin to have difficulty solving day-to-day problems at work.
- Difficulty in analyzing and planning-unable to evaluate and plan any task.
- Difficulty expressing emotions and thoughts: a person may have difficulty expressing emotions and thoughts.
- Reduced visual perception: A person may have difficulty distinguishing between nearby people and objects.
- Difficulty completing daily activities: inability to complete any task properly. May be done halfway, poorly, or not at all.
How dementia affects the brain
Dementia wreaks havoc on the brain, but most people think that dementia attacks and destroys the brain completely at once. But it’s not true. Dementia mainly affects 3 major parts of the brain, and you need to understand each of the parts/lobes to understand the destruction of dementia. These 3 lobes are a) the frontal lobe, b) the temporal lobe, and c) the parietal lobe.
- Frontal Lobe: It is known as the largest lobe of the brain, which is mainly found at the back of the forehead at about mid-skull. This lobe gives the ability to speak, and dementia outbreaks only affect a small portion of the brain and affect the person’s ability to speak. This lobe is also responsible for several functions such as planning, judgment, extreme levels of thinking, decision making, concentration, etc.
- Temporal Lobe: This lobe is mainly located above the ears in the front-to-back strip on each side of the head. It basically controls the functions related to hearing and sound. This temporal lobe is mainly responsible for auditory information, visual information, organization, and proper understanding of speech. Dementia produces hallucinations in this lobe due to which a person faces difficulty in recognizing the faces of family members.
- Parietal Lobe: This lobe is mainly found behind the frontal lobe and above the temporal lobe. It is not less than a computer as it receives visual stimuli and coordinates the suitable motor response, as in seeing a ball being thrown and knowing to raise the arm to catch it.
As dementia damages and destroys these particular lobes severely, lots of difficulties is faced by the person during these times. Unfortunately, it is certainly impossible to recognize dementia in its initial stages. Proper medication and therapies are the only ways to reduce it.
What dementia causes hallucinations?
Among the four types of dementia diseases, i.e., a) Alzheimer’s disease, b) Frontotemporal dementia, c) Lewy Body Dementia, and d) Vascular dementia, Lewy Body Dementia is mainly responsible for hallucination. When an abnormal deposit of protein (alpha-synuclein) takes place in the brain, it is mainly associated with dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). It is one of the most common types of dementia. Visual hallucinations are common in the early stages of the disease, but they will eventually stop and won’t reappear in the middle stages. People with Lewy body dementia frequently alternate between good and poor days, when they think normally or at least quite well. Those unpleasant days are likely to feature visual hallucinations in the early phases. People with Parkinson’s disease and dementia, as well as those with Alzheimer’s disease, will have hallucinations. Both of these conditions are linked to protein accumulation in the brain. In certain dementias, hallucinations are more likely to be connected with hearing or feeling. For example, someone might, for example, hold conversations with a fictitious person or believe they are being touched by something that isn’t there.
Causes of Dementia
Irregular changes in the brain cells lead to dementia. Because of these irregular changes, some cells get damaged, and due to this damage, the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other is interfered with, and signaling between them is interrupted. It further affects the thinking, behavior, and emotions of the person.
Disruptions of brain cells are mainly a primary cause of dementia, and the causes of this disruption basically include:
- As we age, as in the case of Alzheimer’s disease,
- Family history
- Damage to blood vessels in the brain
- Protein clumps accumulate in the brain.
- Huntington’s disease and other genetic problems
- Mental and neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and depression
- Traumatic brain injury or repetitive brain injury, as seen in boxers,
- Infections that result in a high fever
- Thyroid issues and diabetes are examples of metabolic disorders.
- Certain medications
- Deficiencies in vitamins
- Heavy metal poisoning or pesticide poisoning
- Abuse of alcohol
- Brain tumors or cancer
Scientists are still working to discover the root cause of dementia. Researchers are still unsure how abnormal deposits of amyloid and tau tangles spread throughout the brain.
Therefore, as there are four types of dementia disease that exist, we are going to understand the main cause of all of them.
Causes of Vascular Dementia: The condition of blood clots and disrupted blood flow in the brain is the main cause of vascular dementia. This can cause the blocking and narrowing of blood vessels, plenty of mini-strokes, high blood pressure, and diabetes. This disease is very rare in people under the age of 60. The situation tends to get worse over time.
The cause of DLB is abnormal deposits of tiny clumps of a protein called Lewy bodies. It initially affects the chemical messengers in the brain. It leads to insomnia, inability to focus, muscle rigidity, loss of coordination, and inappropriate ideas.
Frontotemporal dementia is caused by abnormal protein deposits in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. This type of dementia is most common in younger people. It is found in people between the ages of 45 and 65. Affected parts of the brain shrink with time as it is more likely to run in families.
Causes of Alzheimer’s disease: It is known as one of the most common forms of dementia. It is caused by abnormal proteins that form amyloid plaques and tau tangles all over the brain. After the deposition of proteins, sending messages and signals between brain cells becomes very slow.
Diagnose of Dementia
It’s a challenge for doctors to diagnose dementia disease in its initial phase. To diagnose the cause of dementia, doctors need to review the medical history of the patient and also conduct a physical examination. There is no specific test available to test dementia, so doctors are likely to conduct several tests to know the correct situation of a patient.
Laboratory test: A blood test can easily detect physical problems that can have an impact on the brain’s mechanism.
CT or MRI scan: These scans can check for evidence of stroke or bleeding, tumors, or hydrocephalus.
Neurological evaluation: Your memory, language, visual perception, attention, problem-solving, movement, senses, balance, reflexes, and other areas are all evaluated by doctors.
Cognitive and neuropsychological tests: Your ability to think will be tested by doctors. Cognitive and neuropsychological tests A variety of tests are used to assess cognitive abilities such as memory, direction, reasoning, and judgment, as well as language and attention skills.
Positron emission tomography (PET): This is done to check for brain activity.
Treatments and care of dementia
It is better to diagnose the symptoms of dementia at its initial phase as there is no specific treatment available currently. Still, some treatments have proven a big step in reducing or stopping the effects of dementia.
Therapy: Therapy not only provides the patient with mental peace and relaxation but also reduces their agitation. Massage therapy, light exercise, art therapy, and aromatherapy have all been proven to be effective therapies.
Medication: There are no convincing and specific medicines available on the market, but various types of supplements and herbal remedies are found effective to reduce dementia. As per the studies, Vitamin E may be helpful for Alzheimer’s disease, but its high doses can create several problems and risks. Donepezil, rivastigmine, and galantamine are used to treat the symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Donepezil is also used to treat more severe Alzheimer’s disease. Living a healthy life is the best way to stay away from dementia diseases. Self-care is also very important during dementia:
- Reduce noise and distractions in the environment to help dementia patients focus and work.
- To assist patients in maintaining focus, tasks should be modified by breaking them down into smaller tasks.
Dementia with caregivers
Family caregivers are a much-needed support system for patients, but family members also need time to give proper and complete care to their loved ones. Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another kind of dementia is a long, demanding, and emotionally challenging experience. But if you don’t have someone to care for you, you can still get support from outside caregivers. They are very experienced at this work. In home care(caregiver) services totally depend on your needs and how much you can afford. You can hire in-home caregivers to give emotional and physical support to your loved ones. Agitation, frustration, anger, guilt, and worry are common during this phase. In-home caregivers are now common in most places because a dementia caregiver is a skilled professional who has been trained to identify dementia symptoms. A dementia caregiver(Skilled Nursing) offers a senior with dementia continual, high-quality care. General responsibilities include providing complete assistance with daily activities like bathing, clothing, and incontinence. In-home caregivers also offer a variety of other in-home services.
- Daily activities
- Medication reminders
- Prevention of Wandering
Can dementia be cured?
Research continues on how different types of diseases can damage the brain and so produce dementia. Presently, there is no specific cure available for dementia because it is caused by a different disease. As the number of cases of dementia increases, more research studies and medical trials take place. There is an endless debate going on about whether dementia is a curable or incurable disease. If dementia is caused due to malnutrition, medicine reaction, or infection, then it can be categorized as a reversible disease. However, if it is caused by DLB, Pick’s disease, or Alzheimer’s disease, then it is considered an irreversible disease. It can be slowed down but not cured completely.
As per recent research, the best way to control dementia disease is through life management changes, in which you have to allow the patient to feel independent and try to reduce the agitation, stress, and irritation in the following way:
- Be patient.
- Adapt their environment to them; don’t expect them to adapt to their surroundings.
- If at all possible, keep them in a familiar environment.
- To prevent bringing up unpleasant memories, know their background.
- Reminisce with them about happy events from their past.
- Educate the people around them about their condition and its common symptoms.
Even though there is no proper cure available for dementia, prevention is still important. Try to prevent it from happening at its initial stage. A healthy lifestyle, regular exercise, no alcohol & smoking, and regular interval check-ups will also help to reduce the risk of dementia disease.
Risk and prevention of dementia
Researchers are still trying to know the root cause of dementia because there is no specific way to prevent the risk of dementia. Several risk factors are responsible for the development of dementia, but if you don’t know all these factors, you need to know about such benefits that prevent you from dementia, such as:
- Don’t smoke and drink.
- Stay at a healthy weight.
- Get plenty of exercise.
- Eat healthy food.
- Manage health problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
- Stay mentally alert by learning new hobbies.
- Stay involved socially and interacts with people.
Recent studies also explain to us various risk factors that affect the brain in an indirect way and are responsible for the development of dementia. Various risk factors include:
- The use of alcohol and smoking
- High Cholesterol
- Mild cognitive impairment
- Social isolation
- Traumatic brain injury
- Poor diet
- Lack of physical activity
Of these risk factors, some are modifiable and some are not. The best way to prevent dementia is to live a healthy lifestyle and have regular check-ups so that you can lower your risk of dementia.