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The human mind is made to forget things it doesn’t deem important. More often, we also forget things we want to remember but forget anyway. Repetition of the same incidents trains our brain to retain some memories forever.
But what happens when we tend to forget more than usual? How do you know that it is time to go to see a doctor? What do we call this more than usual memory loss?
In medicine, the condition of the brain featuring declined memory in terms of language, problem-solving abilities, and common analytical skills that directly or indirectly affect one’s ability to perform even the most routine activities is called Dementia.
Is it only the memory loss? No. Memory loss is only one side-effect of Dementia. There are many other ways Dementia affects the working of the body. The most common example of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease.
Dementia is a wider term consisting of a broad range of particular medical conditions. Abnormal changes in the brain can show different disorders, which are generally and collectively termed as dementia.
These abnormal changes drastically activate the decline in cognitive abilities (ability to think), enough to damage the routine life and independent performance. They also badly affect relationships, feelings, and behavior of a person with others.
Often people relate dementia with senility and call it senile dementia which is connected to the wrong belief that serious mental degradation is common in the process of aging.
Individuals suffering from dementia show various symptoms and these symptoms may vary greatly from person to person. Some of the symptoms are –
- Short term memory
- Problem keeping track of keys or wallet
- Forgetting the payment of bills
- Problem in planning
- The problem in remembering meetings
- Difficulty navigating same routes
Note – It is really important to know the difference between being careless and actually suffering from a problem.
Dementia is not always evident from the start, it progresses slowly like any other disease and keeps getting worse. If you have a friend or a relative who is having serious memory difficulties or any other skills which are easy for a normal person, do not ignore it.
Seeking medical help can help you determine the actual cause of the problem. Also, chances are that the condition of the person can be completely or partially cured, especially at the initial stages of the problem.
Early diagnosis also allows an individual to get the maximum advantage of the available treatments. These individuals can also be great opportunities for doctors to conduct clinical trials if the individual agrees to it.
Causes of Dementia
- Damage to brain cells directly affects the brain and is the major cause of dementia. Even the slightest damage in the brain has the ability to interrupt the proper functioning of brain cells. Often, these cells lose the ability to communicate with each other, which leads to abruption and abnormal changes in behavior, thinking, and feelings.
- The brain is divided into different segments and each segment has been allocated different responsibilities. For example, functions like memory, sensory, and movement are the result of coordination between different segments of the brain. When a particular area is damaged, it cannot work normally.
- The different kinds of dementia are related to the different parts of the brain. For instance, a rise in levels of some proteins in and out of the brain cells abrupt communication among cells and causes Alzheimer’s disease.
Hippocampus, a small region in the brain that works for storing memory and helps to learn, is the first thing that gets damaged, and that explains why memory loss is the most common symptom of any kind of dementia. The damage in the brain brings out changes that can be permanent or gradually become worse over time.
Some types of dementia
- Lewy body dementia – It is a very commonly seen and progressive form of dementia. Some abnormal structures, known as Lewy bodies, are found in the brain of the person suffering from this kind of dementia. These structures are found in the outer layer of the brain called the cortex. This layer is responsible for understanding language, thinking, and perceiving. These abnormal structures can be seen in many different parts of the substantia nigra and brain stem. This is the location where nerve cells release important neurotransmitters that assist in controlling movement and maintaining coordination.
People suffering from Parkinson’s disease tend to show the presence of Lewy bodies.
- Vascular dementia – Our brain needs a constant supply of oxygen from our blood. Lack of oxygen interferes with the functioning of the brain cells, even causing their death. The condition that inhibits the normal flow of blood to the brain can lead to vascular dementia.
Vascular dementia can be of many types depending on the cause and symptoms that appear. Again, no two people have the same symptoms.
- Frontal lobe dementia – It is a syndrome (a group of diseases) that leads to significant changes in cognitive and behavioral skills. It is also called frontotemporal dementia. The syndrome involves the damage to brain cells that are located in the temporal and frontal lobes of the brain. These lobes control the emotions, language perception, personality, and judgment skills in a person.
What kind of memory loss can be treated?
Any memory or thinking related problem can be treated when it is due to –
- Side effects from a certain medicine
- Consumption of alcohol in an excessive amount
- Problem-related thyroid
- Vitamin deficiencies
How to diagnose dementia?
- The best way doctors can determine whether a person has dementia or not is by relying on different tests and careful study of the person’s medical history.
- A thorough physical examination is equally important.
- Doctors keep an eye on the behavioral changes and day-to-day routine of the person. However, even if a doctor can tell if a person is suffering from dementia, it can be hard to find out in which category exactly the patient falls.
- It is possible that one patient has overlapping dementias, which is why it is important to see the brain specialist, also called neurologist or gero-psychologist.
Can dementia be treated?
- Whether someone can be treated completely or not depends on the reason dementia has occurred in the first place. As discussed above, some conditions can be treated, but for more progressive diseases, including Alzheimer’s, there is no treatment and cure that restricts or even slows down the disease.
- However, some drugs are there that can certainly improve symptoms. Also, non-drug therapies can also give relief from some symptoms of dementia.
In the long run, the route to find efficient and better treatments for dementia can only be found through intensive research and increased involvement in clinical studies. At present, volunteers are required to engage in clinical studies and trials for dementia.
Age and genetics continue to be the risk factors for dementia and can’t be avoided and changed. Nevertheless, researchers continue to discover new ways to study the impact of other factors and the prevention of dementia.
Adopting various options of a healthy lifestyle is the best way to reduce the risk of preventing dementia or alleviating its symptoms.