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DEMENTIA

Dementia is a progressive and chronic syndrome that describes a group of symptoms affecting thinking, social and mental abilities of a patient. These symptoms affect so severely, that there is a disturbance in the patient’s daily activities, personal and social life.

Causes

Dementia is caused mainly due to the damage of the neurons in the brain. Many factors may cause dementia, and include:

  • Protein abnormalities
  • Brain stroke
  • Protein deposits in the brain
  • Shrinking of the brain
  • Low dopamine levels in the brain
  • Genetic mutation disease
  • Thiamine (vitamin B12) deficiency
  • Fluid buildup in the brain
  • Infections
  • Alcoholism
  • Thyroid hormone deficiency
  • Brain tumors

Symptoms

The brain functions that are impacted include memory, visual perception, reasoning, concentration, language, and communication.

The symptoms of dementia may include:

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty in communication, thinking, planning, and organizing
  • Difficulty in handling complex tasks
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Agitation
  • Paranoia
  • Personality changes
  • Inappropriate behavior

Risks

The non-modifiable factors of dementia include age, genetic aspects, and mild cognitive impairment.

The modifying risk factors for dementia include alcoholism, smoking, depression, sleep problems, and diabetes.

Diagnosis

The diagnostic modalities may include:

  • Medical history of the patient to determine the progression of the disease
  • Mini-mental state examination (MMSE) to assess mental abilities Blood tests such as thyroid hormone test, vitamin B12 test etc
  • CT scan of the brain to check for signs of a brain tumor and brain stroke
  • MRI scan of the brain to check for blood vessel damage and brain shrinkage
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) and single photon emission tomography (SPET) scans to identify any abnormalities in the blood flow in the brain and how the brain functions
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG) test for recording brain electrical signals

Treatment

The progression of dementia be delayed, if the disease is diagnosed at an early stage. Some of the medications that help to manage and control symptoms, and slow the progression of dementia are:

  • Cholinesterase inhibitors
  • Memantine
  • Small quantities of vitamin E
  • Omega 3 fatty acids

Therapies

Occupational behavioral therapy is useful in minimizing the symptoms of dementia. Aromatherapy and massage therapy may help patients obtain relief from debilitating symptoms such as agitation.

Self-management and prevention

Dementia cannot be prevented, but the following measures may improve the quality of life. The modalities are:

  • Eating a healthy and balanced diet
  • Quitting smoking
  • Lowering the high blood pressure
  • Keeping the mind occupied
  • Establishing a night time ritual
  • Encouraging the use of calendar
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