Dementia is a very common diagnosis in our elderly population. Dementia can be defined simply as a group of symptoms which manifest as memory loss and the decline of intellectual abilities that interfere with daily life. These symptoms can cause changes in behavior, memory loss and cognitive decline.
The following explains some common forms of dementia:
- Huntington’s Disease is a progressive disease which also causes irregular movements in facial muscles, arms and legs.
- Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive disease of the central nervous system which may also cause tremors, decline in movement control and impaired speech.
- Brain Injury caused by trauma may cause damage to brain cells which causes symptoms of dementia.
- Lewy Bodies Disease may cause hallucinations, rigid muscles and tremors somewhat similar to Parkinson’s Disease. It can cause a fluctuation in mental alertness and may decrease attention span.
- Vascular Dementia can be caused when parts of the brain do not get the blood flow that they need such as following a stroke or a small series of strokes.
- Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus or NPH is caused by excess fluid buildup on the brain. The patient may exhibit other symptoms such as difficulty walking, urinary incontinence along with memory loss, problem solving and poor decision making skills. This can sometimes be corrected with surgery.
- Korsakoffs Syndrome also known as alcohol dementia may also manifest in signs of dementia as excessive use of alcohol may cause irreversible brain damage.
- Alzheimer’s Disease is a progressive disorder that causes problems in problem solving, planning, memory, safety awareness and behavior. This disorder develops when nerve cells in the brain are damaged and eventually die. Plaques and tangles build up in the cells and keep those cells from communicating with the body.
Remember that not all cases of dementia are Alzheimer’s Disease related. However, Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “Alzheimer’s Disease accounts for 50 to 80 percent of dementia cases”.
Just because a person has impaired memory does not necessarily mean that they have dementia. Some other causes of memory impairment may be depression, medication side effects, vitamin deficiencies, poor nutrition, infection, thyroid issues. The good news is that many of those may be reversed with proper medical care.
If you notice changes in cognition, behavior or memory in yourself or a loved one, Dementia may be the culprit. Please seek proper medical advise because along with the changes in cognition, behaviors and memory also comes poor problem solving skills and poor safety awareness.
The Alzheimer’s & Related Dementia Educational Series & Caregiver Support Groups meets at Mayo in Jacksonville at noon on the 1st Tuesday of each month. For more info call (904)953-7103.
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