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Monday, 02 January 2017 02:00

A Basic Overview of Dementia

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a term used to describe a collection of symptoms that cause brain degeneration. 

Understanding the symptoms of dementia is an all important step in learning to live with the emotional impact that it will have on the lives of those closest to the person suffering the condition, as well as the person with dementia.

Symptoms of dementia include but are not limited to; memory loss, confusion, apathy or indifference to everything around them, a low concentration and communication difficulties. A patient suffering from dementia is also likely to show a general inability to undertake daily tasks, a lack of co-ordination in the simplest of tasks, and distinct changes in personality.

Types of Dementia

  • Alzheimer’s Disease – This is the most common form. The mental decline is gradual ranging from mild to moderate to severe 
  • Vascular - stepped decline and most often follows a stroke/vascular disease
  • Lewy Body – rapid decline with Parkinson symptoms
  • Frontotemperal – less common, also known as Pick’s Disease
  • Korsakoff’s Syndrome – commonly caused by alcohol abuse

Diagnosis

Most of the symptoms of dementia can be caused by other conditions.  This is why many tests must be done to ensure that dementia is the cause. Mental testing (MMSE) and full physical testing must be undertaken. 

It’s critical that Doctors rule out the possibility of the following before being certain that a person’s symptoms are caused by dementia;

  • Depression
  • Medication side effects
  • Urinary or chest infections
  • Infected wounds – particularly pressure sores
  • Anaesthetics from a recent hospital visit (side effects can last months)
  • Constipation
  • Alcohol
  • Thyroid deficiencies
  • Poor hearing or loss of eyesight
  • Brain tumours and pressure hydrocephalus
  • Sudden trauma inducing changes such as death of a spouse, or moving into a care facility. 

If all of the above symptoms are ruled out, then doctors will determine whether it is Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) or dementia. 

MCI causes mild memory problems, such as becoming forgetful or having difficulty concentrating but these are common symptoms of ageing and are not considered to be dementia. 

Treatment for Dementia

While Doctors can prescribe medications and lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise to help alleviate symptoms, there is currently no cure for the condition. It’s important though that the right diagnosis is made so that the correct support and care is in place as and when it’s needed.

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