What is Dementia
The word “dementia” has its origin in Latin and means “madness” or “without mind.” It was later given to a series of global cognitive ability loss in individuals who were previously unimpaired and manifest symptoms of cognitive failure beyond the expectations linked to their age.
It is important to keep in mind that dementia doesn’t represent a single disease, but a set of symptoms and signs that directly affect areas such as attention, memory, language, as well as problem solving capacities. In the majority of situations, these signs should be present for at least six months before receiving diagnose.
The first scientific report of this medical issue was the description of a woman called Auguste D who was admitted to a hospital due to “increasingly odd behavior” and eventually died in 1906. After she passed away, doctors examined her brain and discovered that it contained unusual aspects such as fibers that were tangled within the nerve cells and some clumps of protein named plaques. However, because she was approximately 50 years old, her condition wasn’t initially linked to what it was referred to as “senile dementia.” After this case as well as some other scientific studies, it was discovered that there are a variety of cognitive issues that target its appearance. Among these, the most common is Alzheimer’s disease.
Currently, approximately 6.8 million individuals living in the United States suffer from dementia. From these, somewhere around 1.8 million are severely affected.
According to some research, there are two types that described this medical problem. It can be either static which means that it is in fact a result from a global brain injury or progressive, regarded as a result from other diseases or damage suffered by the organism. The second one often results in a long-term decline. Even though most of the sources state that it appears after the age of 65, there are several situations in which it occurs way before and the term utilized for these is “early onset dementia.”
Among the medical conditions that target its development, there are Alzheimer’s disease, HIV, traumatic brain surgery, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The most common cause behind the occurrence of dementia is the development of certain clumps of protein in the brain which affect a percentage of the population that varies from ten to twenty. The second cause is represented by a blocked or reduced blood flow within the vessels that circulate the blood towards the brain. Despite the fact that there are various causes behind the apparition of dementia, in most of the situations, the condition can be reversed by following a proper treatment.
Signs & Symptoms
The symptoms of dementia target a wide array of cognitive features from memory loss to attention difficulties. Within the ones that often appear, problems linked to carrying out simple tasks and normal planning appear, an enhanced memory loss that may be related to either short or long-term memory, impediments in the speech of the individual who can’t seem to be capable of finding the right words, difficulties in controlling behaviors or moods such as increased agitation, and issues when it comes to identifying events or recognizing places and people.
Besides these, there are some additional symptoms that occur in particular situations such as detailed visual hallucinations which occurs in individuals with Lewy bodies and unusual behavior or personality changes that are expressed through sexual comments which are more explicit, self-exposure and saying rude things to others due to a empathy lack. As we’ve previously stated, depending on the severity of this condition, the symptoms may evolve and new ones can appear throughout time. Furthermore, people should be aware of the fact that not every bodily problem that implies a memory loss or a behavior change is linked to dementia, thus the symptoms should be tracked through a period of at least six months and measures are to be taken depending on the gravity.
Due to the fact that signs of dementia are linked to a wide variety of conditions, it is difficult to properly diagnose it and additional doctor appointments may be required. In order to diagnose it, a doctor would have to look at the patient’s medical history while also conducting a physical examination. Furthermore, some tests are to be taken by the individual so other potential problems are eliminated.
These tests are usually neuropsychological and cognitive, laboratory tests, neurological evaluation, brain scans, and psychiatric evaluation. They are ordered by a specialized doctor and the decision is based on the development stage. The ones that are used the most are represented by neuropsychological and cognitive tests which measure thinking skills like orientation, memory, judgment, and reasoning, as well as attention and language skills so the severity of the symptoms are observed and a proper treatment can be given.
Treatment for Dementia
Even though most cases of dementia can’t be fully treated, doctors usually prescribe a treatment that can help a patient manage the symptoms. Additionally, its progression may be slowed and some of the symptoms can temporarily disappear. The most common approaches are therapies and prescribed medication.
For instance Cholinesterase inhibitors such as rivastigmine (Exelon), glantamine (Razadyne), and donepezil (Aricept) are recommended because they help boost levels of chemical messengers which are directly involved in judgment and memory. However, the downside of this type of treatments is the side effects which include diarrhea, vomiting and nausea. Another drug often prescribed as a treatment for dementia is Mematine which works in the organism by regulating the glutamate activity, meaning that it directly affects a chemical messenger from cognitive functions.
The drug approach is generally combined with certain therapies which target a modification in the patient’s responses, environmental influences and daily tasks. In order to increase the chances of success, the individual that suffers from this problem should be helped to focus, remember some things and activate as a normal person in society by having those around him understand the situation and behave likewise.
When it comes to alternative medicine, the ingredients which are generally preferred include Huperzine A, Ginkgo Biloba, Salvia, and traditional medicine formulas such as qui pi tang or wen dan tang.