Basic Ideas of Dementia

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Dementia is a persistent or chronic mental disorder caused by injury or disease of the brain and characterized by personality changes, impaired reasoning, and memory disorders.

Introduction:

Dementia is a mental illness that involves a couple of symptoms and signs that tend to seriously impact the mental health of a person. It often begins with having a tough time in retaining memories, even the short term ones. The impact of this disorder varies in all persons. It affects some people to a severe extent while others are not much impacted by it. Unfortunately, like most mental disorders dementia too doesn’t have a successful cure so far, but there are treatments which help minimizing the effects of its symptoms. Normally it shows up after the age of 65. People under 40 are very rarely affected by dementia.

Dementia is progressive in nature, i.e. its impact gradually intensifies making the symptoms aggravate over time. It affects different areas of the brain and each area affected involves a distinct symptom.

Types of Dementia

Generally, there are five types of dementia:

  1. Vascular dementia
  2. Alzheimer’s disease
  3. Frontotemporal dementia
  4. Lewy body disease
  5. Mixed dementia

Vascular dementia

When the blood vessels of the brain are damaged to the verge of causing cognitive disability, it’s called vascular dementia. The damaged blood vessels often result either from a single stroke or multiple strokes. The symptoms include, lethargy, loss of motivation, obstruction in planning and concentration, memory loss, perplexity etc.

Alzheimer's disease

The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. It starts with a memory loss and gradually affects the overall cognitive function of brain.  Around 75% of the dementia cases are affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

Other than memory loss, the additional signs of this disease include abrupt fluctuations in one’s personality, poor performance in routine activities, forgetting the routes and losing time track, loss of language skills, visual hallucinations, aggression, lethargy, anxiety and depression.

This type of dementia fails a human brain in two ways:

  • It deposits clumps of a protein “beta-amyloid” which leads to formation of amyloid plagues.
  • Another protein called “tau” is accumulated in strands which get twisted in bundles, known as neurofibrillary tangles.

Both these abnormalities break the communication in the nerve cells, which are completely damaged. Without functional nerve cells, the brain loses its cognitive abilities.

Frontotemporal dementia

The front lobes of the human brain are damaged in the case of frontotemporal dementia and the damage takes place gradually. The symptoms of this kind include behavioral and temporal symptoms. For an instance, poor attitude problems, loss of temperament, irresponsible behavior, overeating, loss of memory, failure to retain things like object names, over thinking while speaking, inability to comprehend a known language etc.

Lewy body disease

In this disease, the nerve cells of the brain get damaged due to the abnormal accumulation of clumps of a specific protein called alpha-synuclein and the clumps are referred to as lewy bodies. This results in symptoms like loss of concentration, impairment of special abilities, loss of memory, poor planning and problem solving, hallucinations, anxiety and depression, problems in balancing while walking etc.

Mixed Dementia

It’s a combination of the aforementioned types which affects the brain in all parts. This type of dementia is lethal and very difficult to treat.

Key Facts and Statistics:

  • According to WHO (World Health Organization), the number of persons with dementia is globally 47 million in April 2017, which can be increased to 75 million by the year 2030 and can almost be tripled by the year 2050.
  • As per WHO, normally, dementia is not caused by aging.
  • According to WHO, a new patient is diagnosed with dementia every three seconds.
  • As per WHO, the treatment cost of dementia is approximately 818 billion in US dollars per year in April 2017, which is so high.
  • The people who take care of dementia patients face high emotional, physical and economic stresses.
  • A dementia patient’s life quality can be improved if the disease is diagnosed early.
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