Dementia: Causes, Types, Symptoms & What to Do Next

Dementia is a severe disease that affects numerous Americans. Currently, approximately 6 million individuals in the United States are living with this condition. As the population ages, this number is projected to increase, with experts estimating that by 2050, there could be as many as 14 million Americans with dementia. This brain disease has a significant impact on individuals, families, and society, making it a critical public health issue that requires attention. While medical research and treatment have advanced, for us, there is still much to be learned about how to recognize it and what you should do next.

3d illustration about dementia

What Is Dementia?

Before we tell you what causes this horrendous disease and how you can recognize it, it’s crucial to know what it is. Dementia is an umbrella term for brain conditions that affect the brain and can cause problems with a person’s memory, thinking, and communication skills. It can also affect a person’s behavior and emotions. Dementia can make it difficult for people to do everyday activities and can be frustrating for both the person with dementia and their loved ones.

Causes & Types

Dementia is caused by damage to the brain cells, which affects the brain’s ability to function correctly. This damage can be due to various factors, including age and genetics. One of the most common causes is aging, as our brains naturally undergo changes as we get older. Genetics can also play a role, as some people may have inherited genes that increase their risk of developing dementia. Other factors include:

  • Degenerative neurological diseases, like Parkinson’s disease, and some types of multiple sclerosis
  • Vascular disorders, like brain injuries and meningitis
  • Excessive substance abuse
  • Medical conditions, like diabetes, strokes, and high blood pressure
  • Lifestyle choices, like poor diet and lack of physical exercise

While the exact cause of dementia is not always clear, it is often a combination of the above-mentioned factors that work together to damage the brain cells. Unfortunately, the damage caused by these brain diseases is irreversible and worsens over time, leading to a decline in a person’s ability to think, remember, and communicate.

Types of Dementia

As dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a group of conditions that affect the brain and cause problems with thinking, memory, and communication. There are several different types. To make it easier to understand we’ve made an overview of the 5 types, which part of the brain affects, and how it affects the patient’s daily life.

Type of dementia Part of the brain affected Commonality What it affects Most common cause
Alzheimer’s disease Hippocampus, cerebral cortex Most common type of dementia Memory, thinking skills, perception, language Buildup of protein in the brain
Vascular dementia Areas of the brain dependent on blood flow Second most common type of dementia Decision-making, planning, organizing Reduced blood flow to the brain
Lewy body dementia Cerebral cortex, hippocampus, brainstem Third most common type of dementia Thinking, movement, mood, visual hallucinations, sleep disturbances Buildup of Lewy body proteins in the brain
Frontotemporal dementia Frontal and temporal lobes Less common type of dementia Personality, behavior, language, movement Abnormal protein deposits in the brain
Mixed dementia Combination of brain areas affected by different types of dementia Common in older individuals Memory, thinking skills, behavior, personality, movement Combination of factors, such as Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia

As you can see, each type of dementia has unique characteristics and affects different parts of the brain.

Dementia can lead to a range of complications. These complications can include falls and injuries, malnutrition and dehydration, infections, wandering and getting lost, agitation and aggression, and communication difficulties. As the disease progresses, it can also impact a person’s ability to perform everyday activities, leading to increased dependence on others and a decrease in quality of life

Symptoms of dementia

Warning Signs of Dementia

As mentioned on the previous page, there are several types, and each type has unique characteristics and symptoms to look out for. Symptoms per type of dementia, include:

Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Memory loss, especially for recent events
  • Difficulty with problem-solving or planning
  • Confusion about time and place
  • Trouble completing familiar tasks
  • Difficulty with language or finding words

For specific Alzheimer’s disease symptoms, check out our article: Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease & What You Should Do Next

Vascular dementia:

  • Difficulty with decision-making
  • Problems with communication, such as understanding or finding words
  • Mood changes, including depression and anxiety
  • Movement problems, such as difficulty walking or maintaining balance

Lewy body dementia:

  • Visual hallucinations
  • Sleep disturbances, such as acting out dreams or talking in one’s sleep
  • Changes in thinking and movement, such as stiffness, tremors, and balance problems
  • Mood changes, including depression and anxiety

Frontotemporal dementia:

  • Changes in behavior and personality, including social disinhibition and compulsive behavior
  • Difficulty with language, including speaking, understanding, and writing
  • Movement problems, such as stiffness or tremors

It’s important to remember that these signs may also be present in other conditions, and a professional diagnosis is necessary to determine the exact cause of any symptoms. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these signs, it’s important to seek medical advice.

Dementia is diagnosed through a combination of several. Healthcare professionals will begin by taking a medical history and performing a physical examination to rule out other conditions that could be causing your symptoms. They may also conduct cognitive testing to assess memory, problem-solving, and language skills. Brain imaging tests, such as MRI or CT scans, may also be used to examine the brain and look for changes that may indicate the disease. Getting an accurate diagnosis is crucial for determining the cause of symptoms and developing a personalized treatment plan.

Reducing the risk of dementia

Treatment Options for Dementia

If the diagnosis is indeed dementia, the right treatment plan is set up. While there is currently no known cure for dementia, there are treatments available that can help manage the symptoms and improve the quality of life for people with dementia. Some of the treatment options for dementia may include:

  • Medications: Certain medications can help manage the symptoms, such as memory loss and changes in mood and behavior
  • Therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy and other forms of therapy can help manage behavioral symptoms and improve communication
  • Lifestyle changes: Eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and staying socially engaged can help improve overall health and well-being
  • Support groups: Joining a support group and their caregivers can provide emotional support and helpful resources
  • Caregiver support: Caregivers may benefit from education, counseling, and respite care to help manage the challenges of caregiving

Is It Preventable?

As there is no cure, there is also no way to prevent dementia – yet. To decrease your chances of getting it – later on, in life – there are some prevention tips. Including:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Stay socially engaged
  • Challenge your brain
  • Manage chronic conditions

Keep in mind that there is always help and support available for people suffering from dementia and their family members. For more information about memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, or other progressive brain conditions continue your online search here:

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