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Dementia: Types, Causes & Risk Factors

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What is Dementia?


Dementia depicts a combination of signs concerning memory, reasoning & social skills serious enough to intervene with your everyday living. Dementia is not caused by a single disease rather is caused due to a different kind of diseases.

Dementia though is frequently linked with memory loss, but every memory loss doesn’t signify that you may be suffering from dementia. The most common reason for progressive dementia in senior citizens is Alzheimer disease. There are varied numbers of reasons for dementia & depending on the causes some dementia symptoms can be reversed.

Types of Dementia

Depending on the affected brain part dementia can be categorized by two different type

Dementia: Types, Causes & Risk Factors

Cortical Dementias

This type of dementia is caused due to concerns in the outer layer of the brain i.e cerebral cortex. This layer plays a significant role in language & memory. People suffering from cortical dementia have severe memory loss & forget words or fails to understand language. Alzheimer is an example of cortical dementia.

Subcortical Dementia

This type of dementia is generally due to a problem in the part of the brain which is beneath the cortex. Symptoms like shifts in the speed of thinking & capability to initiate activities are seen. Patients suffering from this type don’t have language problem or memory issues. Huntington & Parkinson’s diseases cause this type of dementia.

Stages of Dementia

There are stages through which the dementia patient goes. Stages may differ from person to person depending on the affected area of the brain.

  1. No impairment – There are no symptoms of dementia in this stage but the test may diagnose the disorder
  2. Mild – In this stage memory is impaired but other cognitive deficits are insignificant. The person is independent at this stage & can take good care of himself.
  3. Moderate – In this stage the patient becomes dependent and cannot care for himself. Environmental disorientation, apraxia, wandering, behavioral changes may be observed.
  4. Severe – This is the severe stage where a person doesn’t recognize his family members & is completely bedridden. At this stage echolalia that is the repetition of words spoken by others & palilalia involving involuntary repetition of one’s own words, is observed. Activities of daily living (ADL) are affected.

What are the Symptoms of Dementia?

Different symptoms may be detected in different people suffering from dementia. Symptoms in patients changes as per the brain area affected by the damage.

Some of the common symptoms in dementia are

  1. Poor Judgement
  2. Loss of memory
  3. Difficulty performing day to day task
  4. Problem with language
  5. Loss of initiative
  6. Misplacing things
  7. Problem with abstract thinking
  8. Disorientation & confusion
  9. Psychological changes like personality changes, Depression, Anxiety, inappropriate behavior, paranoia, agitation & hallucination.

What are the Causes of Dementia?

Dementia occurs when nerve cells and their connection in the brain is lost or there is damage to the nerve cells. Damage to the brain cell conflicts with the sense of brain cells to interact with each other. Loss in proper communication of brain cell hampers thinking, behavior and feelings of an individual. Varying sorts of dementia are linked with specific kinds of brain cell damage in critical regions of the brain.

Causes of different types of progressive dementia are mentioned in the below list

  • Alzheimer – The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer disease. Even though all the causes of Alzheimer are not known, research shows that a small part of causes is linked with mutation of three genes, which can be hereditarily passed from parent to child. While diverse complex genes are apparently involved one major gene that raises risk is apolipoprotein E4 (APOE).
  • Dementia: Types, Causes & Risk Factors
  • Patients suffering from these diseases have tangles & plaques in their brain. In Alzheimer’s disease, high levels of specific proteins in brain cells hinders their overall health and communication capacity. Hippocampus(one of the brain region) is the core of memory & learning of the brain, & brain cells of this area are affected first. Hence memory loss is the early symptom of Alzheimer’s. Another genetic factor may likely increase the chances of developing Alzheimer.
  • Other degenerative neurological diseases like Parkinson, Huntington, etc.
  • Vascular Dementia – This is the second most common dementia caused due to damage of vessel supplying blood to your brain. Stroke or damage of the brain may be caused by blood vessel problems. Symptoms like a problem in thinking, focusing and orientation may be observed in people suffering from vascular dementia. Patients problem-solving skill is also affected by this type of dementia.

Some temporary forgetfulness may seem like dementia but instead, it can be due

  • Medicine reaction
  • Vitamin deficiency
  • Depression
  • Excess of alcohol
  • Thyroid problems

What Are The Risk Factors Associated with Dementia?

Dementia is caused due to many varied factors. Some factors are irreversible. While some are reversible and can be controlled

Irreversible Risk Factors of Dementia

  • Age – Risk of dementia rises as you age. People generally above 65 are at higher risk of suffering from dementia. Despite, dementia can happen in younger people.
  • Family history – Person having a family history of dementia increases the risk of acquiring the state.
  • Down syndrome – Many down syndrome patients develop Alzheimer’s disease.

Reversible Risk Factors of Dementia

This following risk factors can be changed and help to reduce the possibilities of having dementia

  • Exercise – Research shows that lack of exercise increases the risk of dementia.
  • Excess Alcohol – People consuming a large amount of alcohol are at a higher risk of dementia
  • Depression – Even though there is more to study about it, late life depressions may result in dementia.
  • Smoking – smoking increase the risk of vascular disease & hence risk of dementia too
  • Diseases – Hypertension, atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, diabetes may increase your risk of dementia

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