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Dementia

 

Dementia is a decline in the cognitive functions such as reasoning, memory, and other mental abilities.
Causes

  • Old age.
  • Various diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Parkinson disease, Lewy body dementia, Huntington disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Pick disease, etc.
  • Infections such as meningitis, encephalitis, HIV/AIDS, syphilis, hydrocephalus, etc.
  • Brain tumor.
  • Toxic exposure.
  • Poor oxygenation or hypoxia.
  • Strokes.
  • Head injuries.
  • Drugs.
  • Nutritional deficiencies.
  • Chronic alcoholism.

Symptoms

  • Word-finding difficulty.
  • Forgetting names, appointments, or whether or not the person has done something; losing things
  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks such as driving, cooking a meal, household chores, managing personal finances.
  • Personality changes – becoming unusually withdrawn or silly.
  • Uncharacteristic behaviour.
  • Mood swings, often with brief periods of anger or rage.
  • Poor judgment.
  • Behaviour disorders - Paranoia and suspiciousness.
  • Decline in level of functioning but able to follow established routines at home.
  • Confusion, disorientation in unfamiliar surroundings - may wander, trying to return to familiar surroundings.

Treatment

  • Medical Treatment: Correcting reversible factors and slowing irreversible factors. Cholinesterase inhibitors have been found to stabilize mental functions.
  • Treating depression: Antidepressants are used to partially relieve symptoms, the most important being selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Stimulant drugs such as methylphenidate may also be used.
  • Treating specific medical disorders: These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, infections, head injuries, brain tumors, hydrocephalus, anaemia, hypoxia, hormone imbalances, and nutritional deficiencies.
  • Treating specific symptoms and complications: Infections are treated with antibiotics, dehydration and malnutrition are corrected and injuries are treated appropriately.

Prevention

There is no known way to prevent most kinds of dementia, though some types can be prevented by:

  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, moderate use of alcohol, and no smoking or substance abuse.
  • Taking precautions to prevent infections (such as practicing safe sex).
  • Using protective equipment such as a seat belt or motorcycle helmet to prevent head injury.