Dementia: What is it, what are its types, diagnosis and treatment
Dementia, also known as dementia, is a global health problem that affects many people around the world. According to the data of the World Health Organization, there are more than 55 million people with dementia today. Dementia itself is not considered a disease in itself. Instead, dementia is referred to as a syndrome characterized by decline in cognitive and mental functions. You can find detailed information about dementia, which is a major health problem worldwide and negatively affects the quality of life, especially of people in the older age group, in the rest of the article.
What is Dementia?
Dementia literally means loss of mental functions. In other words, the condition in which a person’s mental functions deteriorate and progress in a way that affects the person’s daily life activities is called dementia. The World Health Organization sees dementia as one of the most important causes of dependence on others in older age groups. Although dementia generally affects people in the older age group, it is not an inevitable consequence of aging. Dementia can also occur in young people due to various reasons. The emergence and/or progression of dementia can be prevented with early intervention.
What are the causes of dementia?
Dementia occurs as a result of damage to nerve cells anywhere in the brain. Each region in the brain has different functions. When the nerve cells in these areas are damaged; Cognitive functions such as calculation, remembering and speaking are negatively affected. Additionally, behavioral disorders such as sudden anger may occur due to damage to the cells.
There are different causes and subtypes of dementia. One of the main causes seen in people diagnosed with dementia worldwide is Alzheimer’s disease. However, some research suggests that genetic factors may also cause dementia. Some other factors that can cause dementia are as follows:
- Diseases affecting the neurological system such as stroke and Parkinson’s,
- Vitamin deficiency, especially B12 and B6,
- Chronic health problems such as kidney failure and liver failure,
- Infectious diseases such as meningitis and HIV,
- Trauma to the head area
Additionally, brain tumors can cause dementia in both people under the age of 65 and older people.
What are the Types of Dementia?
There are different types of dementia, depending on the damage to the brain cells and the area where the damage occurs. The most common of these is the form that develops due to Alzheimer’s Disease. Dementia is often classified according to the underlying health problem. According to this classification, the main types of dementia are as follows:
- Alzheimer’s disease: The World Health Organization reports that approximately 60-70% of dementia cases are due to Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is thought to be caused by two types of proteins called amyloid and tau. As a result of the accumulation of these proteins around brain cells, communication between nerve cells is lost over time. Accordingly, first of all, the person begins to become forgetful. The disease is progressive, and symptoms may worsen over time. In the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease, in addition to forgetfulness, symptoms such as speech disorder, walking disorder, inability to recognize the closest people, confusion of address, mental confusion, learning difficulties, irritability and aggression may also occur. When Alzheimer’s disease progresses, it causes irreversible damage and can have life-threatening consequences. For this reason, when a change in a person’s mental functions that has not occurred before is noticed, it is important to seek help from a specialist doctor without delay.
- Vascular dementia: Vascular dementia, another type of dementia, occurs due to decreased blood flow to the brain as a result of blockage and damage to the blood vessels in the brain. Vascular dementia may begin suddenly following a disease that causes brain damage, such as a stroke, and in some cases, no symptoms may be observed for a long time. Difficulty in thinking, difficulty in understanding and comprehending, and difficulty in speaking can be listed among the primary symptoms of vascular dementia. Symptoms in vascular dementia are closely related to which part of the brain the vascular damage occurs. For example, if vascular damage occurs in the part of the person’s brain responsible for storing information, memory loss and forgetfulness may occur.
- Left corpuscle demands: According to research, approximately 15-25% of dementia cases are caused by Lewy body dementia. Dementia with Lewy bodies is a health problem that occurs as a result of the deterioration of nerve cells in the brain due to the accumulation of protein clumps called Lewy bodies in the brain. The main symptoms of dementia with Lewy bodies include: Symptoms such as forgetfulness, speech impairment, visual perception difficulty can be listed. Unlike Alzheimer’s disease, memory problems are less common in the first stage of Lewy body dementia.
- Frontotemporal demands: Frontotemporal dementia is a progressive health problem that develops as a result of damage to nerve cells in the frontal or temporal lobes of the brain. One of the most important features that distinguishes frontotemporal dementia from other types of dementia is that frontotemporal dementia is more common in people in the middle age group. Some studies show that the majority of adults diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia are between the ages of 45-64. Symptoms include behavioral changes such as not being as attentive to people around them as before, difficulty concentrating, and difficulty speaking and understanding.
- Mixed dementia: In some cases of dementia, two types of dementia may occur simultaneously, such as Lewy body dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This condition is called mixed dementia.
Stages of Dementia
Dementia; It is divided into three stages: early stage, middle stage and advanced stage. The severity of dementia symptoms helps determine the stage of the disease. Dementia symptoms according to stages are as follows:
- Early stage: Since the symptoms are generally milder in the early stage, the symptoms may not be taken seriously by the patient and/or their relatives. In this phase; Symptoms such as forgetfulness, change in behavior, difficulty choosing words, confusion of time, confusion of a place you have been to before may occur.
- Middle stage: Dementia is a progressive health problem. As it progresses, the severity of the symptoms increases. In the middle stage, forgetfulness and speech difficulties increase. At this stage, the person may have difficulty remembering family and friends. Additionally, at this stage, patients may have difficulty performing their own personal care. The middle stage of dementia is the stage where behavioral changes are more common in people.
- Advanced stage: This stage is the last stage of dementia and patients have become almost completely bedridden. At this stage; In addition to memory, behavior and speech problems, nutritional problems may also occur.
How Is Dementia Diagnosed?
Diagnosing dementia in the early stages may not be easy. In diagnosing dementia, a neurologist who specializes in the field first takes the patient’s medical history. At this point, information such as the patient’s age and work history are important. In addition, since some metabolic diseases may cause dementia, the doctor also evaluates whether the patient has any other health problems. The doctor may use routine tests, such as a complete blood count, to make a diagnosis. In addition, neuropsychological tests and imaging methods such as EEG, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are also diagnostic methods used in the diagnosis of dementia.
There is no definitive cure for dementia, and treatment options vary depending on the underlying cause and severity of symptoms. Treatment procedures generally aim to reduce the severity of symptoms and make the patient’s daily life easier. In this context, drug treatments that will support memory and learning can be used. In addition, if people have psychological disorders such as depression and sleep disorders, drug treatment can be applied for these. Additionally, therapy methods such as speech therapy can be used if necessary.
Dementia is a progressive health problem that affects people’s daily lives. Early diagnosis can help relieve symptoms of dementia. In yourself or in your relatives; If you notice symptoms such as forgetfulness, confusion of place and time, do not forget to consult the nearest health institution without wasting time.