Dementia!!!! Hearing this, everyone assumes that it is something related to mental illness and it can be caused only to the geriatric (elderly) patients and to the ones who do not lead an active life. This is totally a misunderstanding of the disease condition. Dementia can occur in any human race, age, gender, social class, and education status. In India, more than 10 million cases were identified with dementia per year. Once it occurs, it can be treated but it cannot be cured completely.
Patients with dementia have difficulty in cognitive functions such as memory, language, reasoning, planning, recognizing, or identifying people or objects. It is caused due to progressive degeneration of cerebral cortex in the brain. It can be caused by one medical condition or multiple medical conditions.
The signs and symptoms of dementia include loss of memory, communication difficulty, disorientation, difficulty in concentration, focus, and thinking, difficulty in completing the tasks, mood changes, loss of initiation, personality changes, misplacement of things, loss of visual perception, loss of reasoning and judgment. The dementia symptoms may be different in different people.
There is no cure for dementia as the neurodegenerative process is irreversible. Some of the symptoms can be temporarily treated with medications such as Donepezil, Alantamine, Rivastigmine, Tacrine. These medications can be used to minimize the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. An NMDA receptor antagonist (Memantine) can also be used in combination with a cholinesterase inhibitor to reduce the symptoms of dementia. The behavioral problems associated with Parkinson’s disease can be minimizes with cholinesterase inhibitors.
“Brain training” sessions can be useful for improving the cognitive functioning in early stages. Memory aids such as computerized recall devices can be helpful for the patients for improving the memory.
Dementia is usually caused by degeneration of the cerebral cortex in the brain. The cerebral cortex is the main part of the brain that is responsible for thoughts, memories, actions, and personality of an individual. The degeneration of the brain cells leads to the cognitive impairments that characterize dementia. Vascular dementia accounts for 20% of cases. This is caused by atherosclerosis in the brain arteries. Alzheimer’s is an irreversible cause for dementia. Some of the other cases that lead to dementia include brain tumors, injuries, infections (meningitis, HIV, and syphilis). Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is also a cause for dementia in some cases.
Any activity or health condition that directly or indirectly has an impact on cardiovascular system can also affect on the brain functioning. So the brain health can be protected by maintaining healthy blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. Maintaining an ideal body weight can help in good cardiovascular health. A healthy diet with essential vitamins and nutrients can help in achieving this. Smoking can be equally dangerous to both cardiovascular system and brain. A regular physical exercise can improve blood and oxygen flow to the brain and thereby reducing the risks of dementia.
To diagnose the disease condition the doctor will first advice to undergo several tests to confirm the diagnosis to help decide the dementia treatment.Family history: family history of dementia is assessed to determine any chances of inheritance.