CogniFit's Science blog: Dementia - What Happens?

Dementia - What Happens?

Dementia is a problem which originates in the brain. It affects people in many different ways. Let’s discuss some of the causes, symptoms and treatments. Some of the more common impacts of this disease involve loss in memory, thinking, language, judgment and behavior.

Many of the more common forms of this disease are degenerative and non reversible. This means that the changes which occurs in the brain as a result cannot be stopped or reversed. One of the more common forms of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease.

Another type of dementia is called lewy body disease and it affects mainly elderly adults. People who suffer from this exhibit abnormal protein structures in certain areas of their brains.

Dementia may also be caused by small strokes. This type of dementia is called vascular dementia. Certain kinds of medical conditions can lead to dementia such as:

Parkinson’s disease; Multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s disease; Pick’s disease; Progressive supranuclear palsy; and infections of the brain such as AIDS and Lyme disease.

There are certain kinds of dementia which can be stopped or reversed if found in early enough stages. This can include brain tumors; changes in blood sugar, sodium or calcium levels in the bloodstream; low levels of vitamin B12; normal pressure hydrocephalus; chronic alcohol abuse; and the use of certain kinds of medicines including cimetadine and cholesterol lowering drugs.

In general dementia appears in older people. It is rare to see the symptoms of dementia in patients under 60. The risk for this disease increases as people grow older.

The symptoms of dementia involve problems with many different kinds of mental function. This can include language, memory, perception, personality changes, and cognitive skills such as abstract thinking, judgment, or problems with mathematical calculations.

In the early stages of the disease, people most often show signs of forgetfulness. It then normally progresses to a stage called mild cognitive impairment. Mild cognitive impairment involves forgetting recent events or conversations; problems performing more than one task at a time; difficulty solving problems; taking longer to solve mental problems.

In general the people who suffer from mild cognitive impairment are aware of their forgetfulness. And this problem does not always lead to dementia.

People who suffer from severe dementia cannot understand language; recognize close family members; or perform basic functions like eating, dressing themselves, or bathing. They may also suffer from incontinence or swallowing difficulties.

There are a number of treatments used to reverse the disease (depending on its cause) or slow its progression. This can include changes in lifestyle, mental exercises, or drug therapies. This is a difficult problem but researchers are hard at work finding a solution.