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The article is developed in partnership with BetterHelp.
Dementia is a difficult thing to understand. For a long time, people thought of dementia as a sort of illness or disease. In reality, dementia is best described as a symptom of something else.
The characteristic effect of dementia is the loss of memory. However, this is rarely the only effect of dementia. Moreover, dementia is associated with a wide range of illnesses. Keeping that in mind, it might be better to think of dementia as a category rather than a single affliction as it’s an umbrella term for a range of different conditions that involve some decline in brain function.
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Causes of Dementia
Dementia is brought on by the degradation of brain cells. This can be triggered by a wide swath of causes. In total, there are more than 100 different diseases that have been observed which can lead to dementia. These can include the well-known Alzheimer’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Discover more about dementia with a variety of medically-reviewed articles and advice from the team at BetterHelp.
However, diseases aren’t the only source of dementia. The affliction can also be brought on by other factors. One source of dementia is damaged blood vessels in the brain, which can occur as the result of a stroke. Likewise, sources of brain degradation such as alcohol abuse or concussions can contribute to the development of dementia. Additionally, genetics play a huge role in whether or not someone develops dementia and to what extent.
Kinds of Dementia
Dementia can be caused by hundreds of factors, but there many of the symptoms overlap such as diminished cognitive function, forgetfulness, and confusion. This article will cover the symptoms of the four most common types of dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease is by far the most common and most well-known cause of dementia. Not all causes of the disease are known or understood, but some varieties arise from genetics. Generally, Alzheimer’s disease affects people over sixty years old. Symptoms include:
- Forgetting or mixing up words
- Difficulty doing familiar tasks
- Getting lost, especially in familiar locations
- Sudden mood changes
Vascular complications are the second most common cause of dementia sometimes known as vascular cognitive impairment. The illness is caused by poor blood circulation in the brain. This can occur after experiencing a stroke. As with other kinds of dementia, vascular dementia is characterized by
- Psychomotor slowness – it takes longer to turn thought into action
- Difficulty keep balance
- Changes in speech
- Frequent falls
- Personality changes
- Mood changes
- Weakness or loss of sensation in part of your body
- Evening confusion
- Hallucinations or delusions
Lewy Body Dementia
This is the third most common kind of dementia making up 5-10 percent of all cases. Often people with many people with Lewy body dementia will experience muscular and movement symptoms such as ‘hunched-over’ posture, rigid or stiff muscles, a shuffling walk, and difficulty getting up or initiating movement. Other symptoms include
- Changes in confusion or alertness at different times
- Balance problems, such as falling frequently
- Changes in handwriting
- Weak voice
- Loss of smell
- Misidentifying objects in low light
- Problems sleeping
- Sleeping during the day
Some experts believe that Lewy Body dementia and Parkinson’s disease dementia are two expressions of the same root issue.
Alcohol associated dementia
This form of dementia is brought on by the excessive consumption of alcohol rather than a specific disease. Alcohol dementia has the expected issues associated with dementia as well as
- Personality changes
- An impaired ability to learn things
- Problems with balance
- Sudden impulsiveness
- Feelings of apathy
- Impaired Speech
Most people with alcohol-related dementia are men over the age of 45. And while the root cause is excessive consumption of alcohol, the majority of drinkers don’t develop dementia as a result.
No matter which variety of dementia someone may have, living with it can be extremely difficult. The common characteristic between all varieties of dementia is a loss of cognitive function. However, each kind of dementia has its own secondary effects that need to be taken into account and treated specifically.