Dementia is a chronic illness that affects intellectual functions such as thinking, memory, behaviour and emotion leading to gradual mental incapacity. The disease destroys large areas of the brain leaving its victims mentally incapacitated and thus vulnerable to abuse and neglect. It can be caused by various disorders, some of which are treatable and some not. The illness affects all races, genders, and socio-economic groups. Although it is not a normal process of aging the elderly are more at risk.
Dementia is a progressive, degenerative brain disease. It results in ious cognitive disorder. Dementia may be static: the result of a unique global brain injury or progressive: resulting in long-term decline in cognitive function due to damage or disease in the body beyond what might be expected from normal ageing. Although dementia is far more common in the geriatric population, it may occur in any stage of adulthood. This age cut-off is definitive of dementia, as similar sets of symptoms (due to organic brain syndrome or dysfunction) are given different names in populations younger than adult.
Is Dementia a disease or an Illness?
Dementia is a set of signs and symptoms, in which of cognition memory, attention, language, and problem solving may be affected.
Is there a cure for Dementia?
Dementia, though often treatable to some degree, is usually due to causes that are progressive and incurable. Dementia is progressive – which means the symptoms will gradually get worse.
Symptoms of dementia can be classified as reversible or irreversible, depending on the aetiology of the disease. Less than 10% of cases of dementia are due to causes that are presently reversible with treatment. Causes include different specific disease processes, in the same way that symptoms of organ dysfunction such as shortness of breath, jaundice, or pain are attributable to many aetiologies. Without careful assessment of history, the short-term syndrome of delirium (often lasting days to weeks) can easily be confused with dementia, because they have all symptoms in common, save duration, and the fact that delirium is often associated with over-activity of the sympathetic nervous system. Some mental illnesses, including depression and psychosis, may also produce symptoms that must be differentiated from both delirium and dementia. Chronic use of substances such as alcohol as well as chronic sleep deprivation can also predispose the patient to cognitive changes suggestive of dementia.
What is the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s?
The term ‘dementia’ is used to describe the symptoms that occur when the brain is affected by specific diseases and conditions. The syndrome of dementia has many causes, but the most common cause is Alzheimer’s disease. Other causes of dementia are vascular dementia (dementia after a stroke), dementia with Lewy bodies, and a collection of dementias known as the frontotemporal dementias.
Alzheimer’s disease was first described by the German neurologist, Alois Alzheimer, as a physical disease affecting the brain. During the course of the disease ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles’ develop in the structure of the brain, leading to the death of brain cells. People with Alzheimer also have a shortage of chemicals that are involved with the transmission of messages within the brain. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, which means that gradually over time more parts of the brain are damaged, and symptoms become more severe.
(Used with permission and thanks to the Alzheimer’s society UK)
Is memory loss a normal part of growing old?
Your brain ages along with the rest of your body. As a natural part of the aging process, you will lose some of your mental ability. This normal decline in mental functioning should not interfere with your ability to function in your daily life.
Any drastic change in memory functioning may be indicative of an underlying disease. If this occurs, immediate contact must be made by with a doctor, psychiatrist, or geriatrician for a professional evaluation. The assessment will focus on any significant change in memory, personality, behaviour, language and analytical skills.