Dementia is not a disease, but rather an umbrella term used to describe a collection of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain.

 

People with dementia experience a progressive decline in their brain function – it affects memory, thinking, language, understanding and judgement.

Early symptoms of dementia

 

The early symptoms of dementia are subtle and may not be immediately obvious. Usually people first notice memory problems such as difficulty remembering recent events.

Common early symptoms of dementia include:

 

  • progressive and frequent memory loss •confusion

 

  • personality and behaviour changes

 

  • apathy and withdrawal

 

  • a loss of ability to perform everyday tasks

Who gets dementia?

 

Although the risk of getting dementia increases as we grow older, it is important to remember that the majority of older people do not get dementia.

 

 

It is not a normal part of ageing.

 

Dementia can happen to anybody, but it is more common after the age of 65 years. People in their 40s and 50s can also have dementia.

 

 

What causes dementia?

 

Today, over 60 different conditions are known to cause dementia symptoms, including:

 

  • Alzheimer’s Disease – the most common type accounting for up to 70% of cases – a degenerative disease of brain tissues

 

  • Vascular Dementia – due problems with blood circulation to the brain

 

  • Dementia with Lewy Bodies – caused by abnormal structures in the brain

 

  • Fronto-Temporal Lobar Degeneration

 

  • Alcohol-related dementia (Korsakoff’s Syndrome) – due to excessive alcohol intake

 

  • Dementia in other diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease and Cruezfeldt-Jakob disease

 

•AIDS-related dementia

 

 

Could it be dementia?

 

There are other conditions that have symptoms that may resemble dementia. Oftentimes, treatment of these conditions will resolve the symptoms. These conditions include:

 

•stroke

 

•depression

 

  • some vitamin deficiencies and hormone disorders •alcoholism
  • medication clashes or overmedication

•infections

•brain tumour.

It is essential that a medical diagnosis is obtained when symptoms first appear, to ensure that a person who has a treatable condition is diagnosed and treated correctly.

 

If the symptoms are caused by dementia, an early diagnosis will mean early access to support, information, and medication should it be available.

What can be done to help?

 

At present, there is no prevention or cure for most forms of dementia. So the primary goal is to manage the symptoms and provide vital support for people with dementia. Positive outcomes are more likely with the help of family, friends and carers.

 

And although there is no cure, there are many practical changes that can be made, which will help the person living with dementia, and their family and carers.

Some medications are available that can help to reduce some of the symptoms experienced by people with dementia, including cognitive (memory and thinking) problems and other associated symptoms, such as depression, anxiety and sleeping disturbances.


DISCLAIMER: This material contains general information about medical conditions and treatments and is intended for educational purposes only. It does not constitute medical or professional advice, nor should it be used for the purposes of diagnosing or treating any illness. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your local pharmacist or health care provider to obtain professional advice relevant to your specific circumstances.