Dementia is not a single disease; it is a broad term given to a disease complex consisting of loss of thinking, remembering, and reasoning that can be seen as one of the striking features in various neurological disorders. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia in the elderly.
Given below is the list of the 10 early signs and symptoms of dementia that are most commonly seen in Alzheimer’s disease:
- Memory loss: Recalling even recently learned information is difficult; relying on others to recollect the information becomes a routine.
- Challenges in planning or solving problems: The ability to concentrate is lost; even simple things such as following a cooking recipe or making simple calculations in household bills become difficult.
- Inability to finish familiar tasks: Familiar tasks such as driving to a familiar location and preparing a grocery list become difficult.
- Disorientation (confusion) with time or place: It becomes hard to figure out the day, time of the day, and current location.
- Misjudgment of visual images and distance: Reading becomes hard because of the inability to see the words in their order; driving becomes difficult because of the inability to judge the distance between two vehicles or between the vehicle and sides of the road.
- Problems with communication: People with dementia may fail to communicate what they want to say exactly because of trouble with words. They may not remember the names of simple objects such as “stick” and call them with other names or related terms. Conversing with people becomes difficult for them.
- Frequently misplacing things: People with dementia may keep things from their original place to some other place where they usually do not keep them. Later, they forget where they have kept their things.
- Problems with decision-making: There may be problems in taking quick decisions or good decisions in certain matters.
- Isolating from work or social activities: People with dementia may start withdrawing from their household and social obligations. They begin to stay aloof by avoiding social gatherings.
- Mood and personality changes: People with dementia who were calm and composed earlier might start losing their patience and get irritated even by petty things. They may look confused, anxious, and depressed most of the time.
What causes dementia?
Dementia is caused by damage to the brain cells in specific regions of the brain that deal with a person’s ability to remember and think. This damage is referred to as neurodegenerative changes and can be caused by any of the diseases that include:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Lewy body dementia
- Vascular dementia
- Pick’s disease
- Prion’s disease
- Huntington’s disease
- Normal-pressure hydrocephalus
Dementia caused by neurodegenerative changes in the brain is permanent and worsens over time. However, dementia caused by some problems other than neurodegenerative diseases are temporary and are treatable. These problems include:
How is dementia diagnosed?
Doctors diagnose neurodegenerative diseases that cause dementia by ruling out other easily treatable causes. For example, if dementia is due to a vitamin deficiency, vitamin supplements can correct it; thyroid problems can be corrected with hormone treatments or surgery.
Tests that are used for diagnosing dementia with its causative disease include:
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10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer's. Available at: https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/10_signs
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