Alzheimer’s Disease (and dementia)Search for Help
What is Dementia?
Dementia is a general term that encompasses a wide range of symptoms associated with serious declines in mental abilities – notably memory loss – that make it difficult to perform daily activities. Accounting for 60 to 80 percent of cases, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common and well-known form of dementia, but there are other types as well. Vascular dementia, which occurs after a stroke, represents another 10 percent of cases, and is the second most common sole cause of dementia. In addition, many other conditions can cause dementia symptoms. Fortunately, some of these, such as vitamin deficiencies and thyroid problems, can be reversed.
Signs and Symptoms
The serious mental declines that characterize Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia should not be mistaken for normal aging, or referred to as “senility.” Initial signs of dementia include difficulty remembering names, events or recent conversations. Additional symptoms include depression and apathy. As dementia progresses, persons with dementia may exhibit confusion, changes in behavior, disorientation, poor judgment, and problems walking, speaking or swallowing. They may be suspicious of their family members, caregivers, friends or other acquaintances without cause.
To be classified as dementia, two or more of the following core mental functions must be substantially impaired:
- Communication and language
- Focus and attention
- Visual perception
- Judgment and reasoning
In everyday activities, those afflicted by dementia typically have issues with short-term memory: They may have a hard time planning and preparing meals, or keeping track of appointments, keys or money. They may get lost easily when venturing beyond their immediate neighborhood.
Dementia results from damaged brain cells, which are unable to communicate with each other. This can cause changes to the individual’s moods, feelings, thinking and behavior. The particular type and location of brain cell damage influences the specific type of dementia.
Doctors diagnose Alzheimer's and other types of dementia based on a careful medical history, a physical examination, laboratory tests, and the changes in thinking, day-to-day function and behavior associated with each type. However, determining the specific type of dementia is a more complex matter. In some cases, this may require seeking out a neurologist, gerontologist or geriatric psychiatrist.
The source of dementia will dictate its treatment. Unfortunately, there is no cure for most progressive dementias like Alzheimer's disease, and there are no treatments that keep them from progressing. However, some medications, as well as non-drug treatments, may temporarily ease symptoms.
The information on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. We do not recommend or endorse any specific tests, mental health providers, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on this site. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.