Dementia is also known as senility. It is the decline in the mental abilities which are severe enough to cause disturbance in the daily routine life. It is not a disease but a group of symptoms which are caused by the disorders affecting the brain.
In dementia, there is decline in the ability of a person to think and remember. It causes problems with thinking, memory and reasoning abilities. It is seen in the group of disorders affecting parts of brain concerned with learning, decision making, logical reasoning and language.
There are multiple causes of dementia given as below:
- Infections of the brain e.g. meningitis, HIV etc.
- Chronic alcohol intake
- Vit B 12 deficiency
- Traumatic brain injury
- Alzheimer’s disease: it is the most common cause of dementia. Almost 60 to 80 % of people presenting with dementia have Alzheimer’s disease.
- Other degenerative disorders of brain: Parkinsonism, Huntington’s chorea, multiple sclerosis etc.
- Vascular problems in brain
It is commonly seen in old age group. A person might be suffering from dementia if presents with following symptoms:
- Inability to remember new information
- Lack of motivation
- Problems in understanding or speaking language
- Slowed thinking
- Impaired decision making
- Impairment in problem solving
- Tremors, imbalance of the body
- Wandering or restlessness
- Psychological effect such as depression, anxiety, delusions, impulsivity etc.
Dementia is classified into two subtypes:
- Cortical dementia:
In this type, the outer layer of the brain known as cerebral cortex is involved. People having this kind of dementia usually have memory loss and problems with understanding or speaking language. Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of cortical dementia.
- Subcortical dementia:
The problem in this type lies beneath the cortex hence the name subcortical dementia. The people suffering from subcortical dementia usually have their memory intact but they show changes in their thinking speed and movement co-ordination. Usually Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease show this type of dementia.
- Clinical symptoms: Diagnosis is mainly clinical. These symptoms must be present for a duration of more than 6 months to confirm the diagnosis.
- Cognitive testing: Mini mental status examination is also an important tool in diagnosing dementia and its underlying cause.
- Lab tests: blood tests for thyroid, vitamin B 12, folic acid, infection and alcohol as well can be used to diagnose underlying conditions.
- Imaging: CT scan or MRI scan can also be done to identify the problem. PET scan also gives valuable information for correct diagnosis.
For the treatable causes, the correction of the underlying problems such as infection or Vitamin B12 deficiency will show improvement. But the other causes cannot be cured. For these conditions, following treatment is tried:
- Psychological therapy:
- Cognitive and behavioural interventions
- Medications: They are used to control the disease from further progression and improve the symptoms.
- Antidepressant drugs: anti-depressants show improvements in dementia associated with depression.
- Diet: having a balanced diet will improve the brain’s health.
- Brain activity: “use It or lose it” is the mantra followed by almost all the organs systems of the body. Hence keeping your brain active. Doing brain exercises such as reading, playing cards and chess, a musical instrument can postpone the development of dementia.
- Physical exercise: it also has a great impact on the mental health. It keeps the healthy blood supply to the brain, helps lose the extra kilos and keeps the mind fresh.
- Sleep: adequate sleep is required to avoid progression of dementia. Where as in sleeping for more than 9 hours every day is also associated with risk of developing dementia.
Having a healthy life style along with healthy mental activity is required to live a life free of dementia.