Dementia (cont.)

What Is Dementia?

Dementia is not a specific disease. It is a descriptive term for a collection of symptoms that can be caused by a number of disorders that affect the brain. People with dementia have significantly impaired intellectual functioning that interferes with normal activities and relationships. They also lose their ability to solve problems and maintain emotional control, and they may experience personality changes and behavioral problems such as agitation, delusions, and hallucinations. While memory loss is a common symptom of dementia, memory loss by itself does not mean that a person has dementia. Doctors diagnose dementia only if two or more brain functions - such as memory, language skills, perception, or cognitive skills including reasoning and judgment - are significantly impaired without loss of consciousness.

There are many disorders that can cause dementia. Some, such as AD, lead to a progressive loss of mental functions. But other types of dementia can be halted or reversed with appropriate treatment.

With AD and many other types of dementia, disease processes cause many nerve cells to stop functioning, lose connections with other neurons, and die. In contrast, normal aging does not result in the loss of large numbers of neurons in the brain.

What Are the Different Kinds of Dementia?

Dementing disorders can be classified many different ways. These classification schemes attempt to group disorders that have particular features in common, such as whether they are progressive or what parts of the brain are affected. Some frequently used classifications include the following:

  • Cortical dementia: dementia where the brain damage primarily affects the brain's cortex, or outer layer. Cortical dementias tend to cause problems with memory, language, thinking, and social behavior.
  • Subcortical dementia: dementia that affects parts of the brain below the cortex. Subcortical dementia tends to cause changes in emotions and movement in addition to problems with memory.
  • Progressive dementia: dementia that gets worse over time, gradually interfering with more and more cognitive abilities.
  • Primary dementia: dementia such as AD that does not result from any other disease.
  • Secondary dementia: dementia that occurs as a result of a physical disease or injury.

Some types of dementia fit into more than one of these classifications. For example, AD is considered both a progressive and a cortical dementia.


Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Dementia - Symptoms Question: Are you caring for someone with dementia? What early symptoms did he/she experience at the onset of dementia?
Dementia - Experience Question: Does someone you know have dementia? Please share your experience.
Dementia - Diagnosis Question: What tests or exams led to a diagnosis of dementia in a relative or friend?

STAY INFORMED

Get the Latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!