There are some misconceptions about dementia. It is often referred to as a specific disease, but in reality, it is not one disease, but an overarching term that covers many diseases.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is a general term that covers when an individual has abnormal changes to the brain. These changes cause various symptoms such as memory loss, inability to solve problems, and difficulty with other thinking. These difficulties begin to interfere with daily life. These changes can impact feelings and behaviors, which has implications for relationships.
What are the Symptoms of Dementia?
There are many different signs of dementia, but some of the more common ones are short term memory problems, paying bills on time, meal planning and preparation, and keeping track of items like a wallet or keys.
The symptoms tend to be progressive and start slowly and then begin to get worse. If you or someone you love begins to have some of these problems, you should not ignore them and visit a doctor. While dementia cannot be stopped, early diagnosis and treatment may allow one to maximize life, as well as make plans for the future.
What are the Causes of Dementia?
When someone is diagnosed with dementia, it means that there has been damage to the brain cells. The damage to the brain causes interference and the brain cells are not able to talk to each other in a way that they should be able to. This damage impacts that area of the brain that controls feelings, behaviors, and overall feelings.
How is Dementia Diagnosed?
The most conclusive way to diagnose dementia is performing an autopsy and studying the brain of someone who is deceased. For someone that is living, there are many parts to diagnosing dementia. It is a series of determinations that lead to this diagnosis. A doctor will first determine if there are any treatable conditions occurring that may cause some of the symptoms. A person may have a thyroid that is not functioning normally that is causing cognitive problems. There may also be a vitamin deficiency causing the symptoms.
Medical history and determining if there is dementia in the family is incredibly important to making this diagnosis. This allows the doctor to determine if any current medications are making the symptoms worse. A doctor should perform a physical exam to detect any of the symptoms that may not be noticeable. The doctor can do an assessment of balance, reflexes, senses, and other cognitive functions to help identity what is happening.
A doctor may test the blood and body fluids of an individual to check hormone, chemical, and vitamin levels to see if any are off. A brain scan may be performed to determine if there are any tumors or to see if the person suffered from a stroke. Both of these can cause dementia or dementia-like symptoms. A doctor may prescribe genetic and psychiatric evaluations to rule out depression or some other mental health condition that may be causing some of the symptoms.