Dementia is an umbrella term for various disorders of mental processes that may be caused by brain disease or injury. The disorder is marked by memory disorders, impaired reasoning, and personality changes.
The condition impacts daily life by interfering with thinking ability and social abilities. The memory loss associated with dementia is often one of its first symptoms and can be caused by various diseases.
Alzheimer’s Disease causes most progressive dementia in the elderly, and the Alzheimer’s Association estimates that approximately 650,000 people in California live with the condition. Depending on the type and cause of dementia, some symptoms may be reversible.
Older adults with Alzheimer’s Disease represent the bulk of senior citizens receiving memory care. The disease accounts for 60-70% of dementia cases. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, caregivers provided 15.3 billion hours of care annually, with a value of $257 billion.
Research shows that one in three seniors will die with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia. Currently, six million Americans live with Alzheimer’s, and it is estimated that the number will increase to 13 million by 2050.
The disease causes cognitive changes that include memory loss and difficulty communicating, reasoning, organizing, and problem-solving. Symptoms may also include anxiety, depression, paranoia, hallucinations, and inappropriate behavior.
These changes are the result of plaque and tangles in the brain. Plaque is clumps of protein, while tangles are fibrous tangles made of protein. Researchers believe the clumps damage healthy neurons and their connecting fibers.
All forms of dementia are linked to increased loneliness and depression. Studies show that these problems are associated with social isolation. About one-third of those with mild-to-moderate dementia report being lonely, while five percent experience severe loneliness.
Per the Mayo Clinic, vascular dementia occurs when vessels that supply blood to the brain are damaged. Problems with blood vessels are associated with strokes and other brain issues. For instance, blood vessel problems may damage the brain’s white matter.
Symptoms of vascular dementia include slower thinking, problem-solving difficulties, poor focus, and organizational abilities. Most signs are more evident than memory loss. Although people with vascular dementia can often live at home in the early stages of their disease, many move to a senior community that offers the specialized help they need when their conditions become advanced.
Frontotemporal dementia represents 10% of dementia cases. It can impact thinking, judgment, personality, behavior, movement, and language. The condition describes a group of diseases associated with the breakdown of nerve cells and their connections in the brain’s temporal and prefrontal lobes. The affected areas are responsible for behavior, personality, and language.
Symptoms are caused by nerve cell loss in the brain’s frontal lobes, located behind the forehead or its temporal lobes, behind the ears. Nerve cell damage can cause behavioral changes and make it challenging to comprehend language. Individuals may lose their ability to formulate or understand spoken words. Some forms of the disease result in very ungrammatical, hesitant, or labored speech.
Lewy Body Dementia
About five percent of dementia cases are associated with Lewy Body Dementia (LBD), a disease caused by balloon-like Lewy deposits on nerve cells. The condition is a common type of progressive dementia. Lewy bodies are abnormal protein clumps found on the brains of people who have Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, and Lewy Body Dementia.
LBD affects approximately 1.4 million Americans and is often misdiagnosed as a psychiatric disorder or a different type of dementia. Because Lewy Body dementia is easily confused with other diseases, doctors typically use a checklist to diagnose it accurately. The things diagnosticians look for include unexplained confusion, forgetfulness, repeated falls, and poor balance.
Those affected may act out dreams in their sleep, experience visual hallucinations, have difficulty solving problems, and have issues focusing. They might have slow or uncoordinated movements, rigidity or tremors, disorganized speech, and be excessively sleepy.
About five percent of all dementia cases are related to causes other than those listed above. Dementia may be associated with Parkinson’s Disease, HIV, Huntington’s Disease, Korsakoff Syndrome, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.
Researchers are unsure how many people diagnosed with specific types of dementia have mixed dementia. An NIA study of 141 volunteers revealed that half of the participants who met the clinical criteria for Alzheimer’s also showed evidence of one or more other types of dementia.
There are various diseases that cause dementia, and they primarily affect aging adults. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia. While memory loss is common in all dementia, various diseases can cause different symptoms.
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