What Is Dementia?
Dementia refers to any condition affecting memory and thinking (cognition) that is beyond what would be expected from normal aging. Indeed, memory and cognition deteriorate in those with dementia to an extent that they need help with day-to-day activities. Dementia symptoms are most often irreversible as brain cells degenerate.
Prevention and treatment of dementia depend on the cause. Although most cases of dementia are not curable, there are steps patients can take to delay symptoms or slow the disease’s progress. A healthy lifestyle can decrease the risk of mental decline and dementia symptoms.
Steps you can take that might delay onset or reduce symptoms of dementia:
- Stay physically, mentally and socially active
- Stop smoking
- Eat a healthy diet and get enough vitamins
- Manage high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and weight
- Get enough good sleep
Dementia is a complex disease that is more than occasional age-related forgetfulness. The specialists at Norton Neuroscience Institute Memory Center have the experience and expertise to precisely diagnose dementia and its various types. Our providers are at the leading edge of advances in this rapidly developing field to help slow the progress and manage dementia symptoms.
More patients in Louisville and Southern Indiana trust Norton Neuroscience Institute with their neurological care than any other provider in the area. Patients find a comprehensive range of board-certified specialists who provide a diversity of viewpoints to develop a customized care plan for each patient.
The Norton Neuroscience Institute Resource Center can support patients and caregivers through the progression of dementia, with resources to help caregivers through this time and transition from home care to specialized care if necessary.
Signs of Dementia
Dementia symptoms vary, and many worsen over time. In general, symptoms include:
- Memory loss, especially short-term memory
- Confusion or disorientation
- Difficulty communicating verbally
- Difficulty planning and organizing
- Impaired judgment
- Personality changes, including out-of-character behaviors, paranoia and agitation
- Anxiety or depression
Types of Dementia
There are four most common types of dementia. Research shows that many cases of dementia involve a combination of these individual conditions.
- Alzheimer’s disease – The most common form of dementia. Alzheimer’s starts as memory loss and, as the brain deteriorates, can lead to an inability to communicate and can limit the patient’s ability to carry out daily activities.
- Vascular dementia – This hard-to-diagnose dementia is related to diseases like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. It can be can be caused by strokes, but often develops gradually and can be difficult to trace back to a single stroke or series of strokes.
- Lewy body dementia – Signs are similar to Alzheimer’s, but often with vivid hallucinations.
- Frontotemporal dementia – This type of dementia is caused by shrinking of the brain’s frontal or temporal lobes. The result can take the form of behavioral changes, difficulty using language properly or an inability to understand words and recognize faces.
Early Onset Dementia
Most cases of dementia before age 65 are Alzheimer’s disease. Other causes tend to be vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, head injury, alcohol use or a metabolic disorder.
Many with early onset Alzheimer’s are in their 50’s or early 60’s. Because Alzheimer’s is associated with older individuals, the condition is sometimes misdiagnosed. A comprehensive exam by a specialist in memory conditions is important to getting an accurate diagnosis.
Reversible Memory Loss
Not all memory loss is related to progressive loss of brain function. Some causes of memory loss can be reversed.
Chronic alcoholism can impair cognition and memory. Alcohol can interact with medications to cause memory loss.
Some medications or combinations of medication can cause confusion or memory loss.
If you’re feeling stress or anxiety or are depressed, you can become forgetful and have difficulty concentrating to the extent it affects your daily activities.
A vitamin B12 deficiency, especially in older people, can cause difficulties with memory.
An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can cause forgetfulness or cognition difficulty.
A tumor or infection in the brain can cause memory issues.