Dementia describes a failure of brain functioning. It’s a broad term for a range of symptoms, most notably memory loss, that result from brain damage. Dementia may be caused by a number of illnesses that affect the brain. Dementia typically leads to memory loss, inability to do everyday things, difficulty in communication, confusion, frustration, as well as personality and behaviour changes. People with dementia may also develop behavioural and psychological symptoms such as depression, aggression and wandering.
Types of dementia
There are many different types of dementia and include the following.
- Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease changes the brain’s structure, which leads to the death of nerve cells. This disrupts the brain’s usual activity. People with Alzheimer’s disease also have a shortage of chemicals involved with the transmission of messages within the brain.
- Vascular dementia is another common form of dementia and is triggered by blockages to the blood vessels (vascular system) in the brain. Not enough blood and oxygen reach the nerve cells so they die. Areas of brain tissue that have died in this way are called infarcts, so vascular dementia is also called multi-infarct dementia. It may be easier to think of vascular dementia as a series of strokes that result from other health problems such as high blood pressure.
- Mixed dementia is when you have more than one type of dementia at the same time. A common combination is Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.
- Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is a type of dementia caused by Lewy bodies, which are made from an abnormal build-up of a particular protein in the brain.
Dementia can also occur in the final stages of other conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, AIDS and Creutzfeld-Jakob disease.
Symptoms of dementia
If you have dementia, you may have some or all of the following symptoms.
- You may have memory loss, particularly of recent events. This may not be severe at first but is likely to become progressively worse.
- You may have problems finding the right words for what you want to say.
- You may feel increasingly disorientated, such as not recognising familiar streets and becoming confused about the time of day. This could cause you to get up in the middle of the night wanting to go out.
- You may have poor judgement, for example dressing inappropriately for the weather or being unaware of dangerous situations.
- You may become withdrawn, prone to fits of temper, or feel anxious and depressed.
- You may have trouble thinking clearly and doing practical tasks that you used to do easily.
Dementia affects everyone differently. Your symptoms may stay the same for some time or if you have vascular dementia, they may occur as a series of episodes with a succession of ‘stepwise’ deteriorations and occasionally some improvement after a period of getting worse.
People who have dementia can often have good quality of life for a number of years. However, the symptoms generally get progressively more severe with time. As your …