Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease or a series of strokes. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, but not the only one. The specific symptoms that someone with dementia experiences will depend on the parts of the brain that are damaged and the disease that is causing the dementia. This factsheet explains what dementia is, including the causes and symptoms, and how it is diagnosed and treated. It also looks at some of the different types of dementia.
Each person will experience dementia in their own way. The different types of dementia tend to affect people differently, especially in the initial stages. Other factors that will affect how well someone can live with dementia include how other people respond to them and the environment around them.
A person with dementia will have cognitive symptoms (to do with thinking or memory). They will often have problems with some of the following:
There are many diseases that result in dementia. The most common types of dementia are outlined below:
The symptoms of vascular dementia vary and may overlap with those of Alzheimer’s disease. Many people have difficulties with problem-solving or planning, thinking quickly and concentrating. They may also have short periods when they get very confused.
The symptoms of these types of dementia are often different in the early stages but become more similar in the later stages. This is because more of the brain is damaged as the different diseases progress. In the later stages of dementia, the person will need more and more support to carry out everyday tasks. However, many people with dementia live well for years after their diagnosis. Information, advice and support are available for the person and their carer to help them live well with dementia.
There are many other diseases that can lead to dementia. These are rare – together they account for only about 5 percent of all dementia. They tend to be more common among younger people with dementia (under the age of 65).These rarer causes include corticobasal degeneration, progressive supranuclear palsy, HIV infection, Niemann-Pick disease type C, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).
Some people with Parkinson’s disease or Huntington’s disease develop dementia as the illness gets worse. People with Down’s syndrome are also at a particular risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease as they get older. For more information see factsheet 442, Rarer causes of dementia.
However, MCI can also be caused by other conditions such as anxiety, depression, physical illness and the side effects of medication. Because of this, some people with MCI do not go on to develop dementia, and a small number of people will even get better
Becoming a little forgetful does not mean that you have dementia. Many people notice that their thinking gets a bit slower as they get older – for example, they might occasionally forget a friend’s name or a contact no. These symptoms can also be a sign of stress or certain physical illnesses.
However, anyone who is worried that their memory is getting noticeably worse, or who has other symptoms such as those listed above, should discuss with our Best Neurologist in Faridabad Now.
Anyone who has problems with their memory or thinking to get a proper check-up. These problems may be caused by stress, or an infection, rather than dementia. Finding out the cause may allow the person to get the right treatment.
But, if these problems are because of dementia, getting a diagnosis has many benefits. It provides someone with an explanation for their symptoms, gives them access to treatment, advice and support, and allows them to prepare for the future and plan ahead. Knowing the type of dementia (for example, Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia) is also important, partly because it may allow the person to get an appropriate drug treatment.
The vast majority of causes of dementia cannot be cured, although research is continuing into developing drugs, vaccines and other medical treatments. There is a lot that can be done to enable someone with dementia to live well with the condition. Care and support should be ‘person-centred’. This means it should be focused on person’s needs and preferences.
Non-drug treatments include information, advice, support and therapies.
Support for the person and their carer should be available after a diagnosis. This should give them the chance to talk things over with a professional, ask questions about the diagnosis, and think about the future. It’s also important to get information on planning ahead, where to get help with this and how to stay well, both physically and mentally. Other types of treatment include the following:
Talking therapies, such as counselling, can help someone come to terms with their diagnosis or
discuss their feelings.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may be offered if the person develops depression or anxiety.
Cognitive stimulation therapy is a popular way to help keep someone’s mind active. It involves doing themed activity sessions over several weeks.
Cognitive rehabilitation can help an individual to recall skills and handle better. There is also lots that can be done at home to help someone with dementia remain independent and live well with memory loss. Support ranges from devices such as pill boxes or calendar clocks to practical tips on how to develop routines or break tasks into simpler steps.
It is not usually possible to say for sure why a particular person has developed dementia. Factors such as high BP, lack of exercise and smoking – all of which lead to narrowing of the arteries – increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. There is evidence that a healthy lifestyle, especially in mid-life, can help reduce the risk of dementia. Regular physical exercise (for example, cycling, swimming, brisk walking), maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, and drinking alcohol only in moderation, if at all, are linked to a reduced risk of dementia.
A healthy balanced diet also helps to reduce a person’s risk. A balanced diet is one which is low in saturated fat, does not have too much salt, sugar or red meat, and includes plenty of fish, starchy foods, and fruit and vegetables. All these healthy lifestyle choices will also reduce the risk of other serious conditions such as stroke, heart disease and cancer.
A person who is already living with conditions such as diabetes, heart problems, high blood pressure or high cholesterol should follow professional advice to keep their condition under control. Getting depression treated early is also important.
By being mentally and socially active may help lower a person’s risk of dementia. Being mentally active could include doing puzzles or reading, or learning a new skill. Being socially active could include visiting friends or going to a place of worship. Volunteering could offer both mental and social activity and many organisations offer opportunities for people looking to donate their time or skills.