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Dementia Causes and Treatment


Dementia is not a disease. It refers to a specific set of symptoms that affect social and intellectual abilities enough that they interfere with daily functioning. These symptoms, which can include memory loss, mood changes and problems with reasoning and communication, are generally caused by disorders, such as Alzheimer’s, that affect the brain. When one or more disorders affect the parts of the brain that are involved with learning, memory, decision-making and language, an individual is said to have dementia.

Signs

Memory loss is one of the most common symptoms of dementia; however, memory loss alone is not is not a sure sign of dementia. In order for dementia to be present, a patient must have problems with at least two brain functions, such as memory loss and language or memory loss and impaired judgment.

Though the first sign of dementia is usually forgetfulness, other mental functions affected include: language, perception, personality, cognitive skills, and emotional behavior.

Causes

Aside from Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for more than half of all dementias, other causes of dementia include:

  • Diseases that cause degeneration or loss of nerve cells in the brain, such as Huntington’s or Parkinson’s
  • Diseases that affect blood vessels (i.e. stroke)
  • Infections that affect the brain and spinal cord, such as AIDS dementia complex or Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Toxic reactions, such as excessive drug or alcohol use
  • A severe head injury or several smaller ones
  • Other non brain-related illnesses, such as kidney, liver or lung disease

Treatment

There is no one way to cure the diseases that cause dementia, and symptoms tend to gradually get worse over time. A number of the diseases, however, can be treated with medication, reversing or improving certain symptoms. Some mental exercises have also been shown to help dementia and can improve mental functioning in some patients.

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