Updated: Apr 10, 2020
Dementia refers to a variety of illnesses due to cognitive impairment and usually involves impaired memory, thinking, and socializing. Dementia diagnosis is given when these symptoms become so problematic that they affect the daily activities of individuals.
Stages of Dementia:
Genetics, age, and health all have an overall impact on dementia and how long it takes for the disease to progress. Scientists have determined that different types of dementias have distinct stages that shape the types of treatments and effects on health. Dementia occurs gradually over time, so catching it early may be difficult.
Types of Dementia:
The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer's, which is responsible for 60-80% of cases regarding dementia. The cause behind Alzheimer's is not clear, but clumps of a protein called beta-amyloid in the brains of people with this disease were found, which is a sticky peptide that accumulates in the brain and disrupts communication between cells and then kills them.
Vascular dementia occurs when blood circulation is decreased due to damage to the blood vessels in the brain. This causes difficulties in making decisions, thinking and moments of confusion.
Dementia with Lewy bodies:
Lewy bodies develop throughout the brain and kill nerves throughout time. In the early stages, alertness and attentiveness vary from day-to-day. Patients may hallucinate and feel persecuted and as the disease progresses the symptoms will resemble Alzheimer's.
Mixed dementia involves multiple causes for dementia, which makes it difficult to understand how the symptoms occur and develop.
Dementia occasionally begins with a mild decline in cognition in which the person may forget little things, like a conversation they had or where they left their keys. They will also have difficulty performing certain tasks. Keep in mind that everyone has moments as such, but it becomes worrisome when it occurs frequently and affects the individual's activities. People close to these patients will notice some changes in language, coordination or memory. This will cause insecurities in the patient and they will begin to hide their symptoms. As the disease progresses, it will be more difficult for the person to hide their symptoms because they will be more prominent.
As dementia reaches the late stages of its cycle the patients cognition becomes severely impaired, where they don't recognize family members, have difficulty communicating, walking and controlling bodily functions. Most patients need full time care and become more vulnerable to diseases and infections.
There is no treatment for dementia currently, but there are steps that can be taken to help reduce and manage the symptoms. Medication helps by adjusting chemicals that carry messages. These medications are cholinesterase inhibitors, which treat mild to moderate symptoms of confusion, communication, and memory. Memantine is used for more severe cases and helps improve language, memory, and thinking by regulating the chemical glutamate in the brain. Other options include medication for anxiety and sleep for behavioral changes. As dementia progresses, professionals may focus on improving the quality of life so the patients better adapt to their environment.