Dementia mainly affects the older generation and is caused by several different diseases that have an impact on the memory and brain function.
Neuraxpharm provides medication alternatives for dementia and once your doctor has determined your specific needs, they can prescribe the product that best adapts to your needs and condition.
Find out about the main types of dementia, common symptoms and what you can do to help prevent it.
Dementia is a broad term that is used to describe many different diseases that affect the brain, causing cognitive function to deteriorate beyond what is considered normal ageing. The word dementia refers to a set of common symptoms including memory loss and difficulties with other thinking abilities, such as language, problem solving and decision making, however symptoms can vary greatly among the different forms of dementia. Sometimes people with dementia are also affected by changes to their mood and behaviour.
While dementia can affect younger people, it mainly affects older people and is one of the major global causes of disability and dependency among the older generation. However, it’s not a normal part of ageing and it can have a severe impact on the lifestyle of those diagnosed and their families and carers.
The specific symptoms experienced by people with dementia will depend on the disease that is causing the dementia and the parts of the brain that are affected.
Memory loss is one of the most common – and most widely-recognised – symptoms of dementia, but there are lots of other signs to look out for.
If someone experiences persistent memory problems that are considered worse than those expected at their age, but is still able to continue with everyday activities, it is known as mild cognitive impairment (MCI). While people with MCI often go on to develop Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, this isn’t the case for everyone with MCI. This stage is also referred to as the prodromal phase.
Following this, the onset of dementia can be broadly divided into three stages: early, middle and late.
Many forms of dementia are progressive, so the early signs of dementia are often quite subtle and then gradually get worse over time. Early on, symptoms may include forgetfulness and losing track of time, although these are often overlooked or dismissed as normal signs of ageing.
In the middle stage, the symptoms become more noticeable – for example, forgetting people’s names or getting lost at home. Everyday tasks, such as getting dressed or making lunch, may become too much, and behavioural changes like wandering around for no reason or being paranoid can also become more common.
The late stage of dementia is more acute, and often leads to a person becoming highly dependent and inactive. They may not recognise loved ones, have no concept of time or place and struggle to walk and communicate. At this stage, people with dementia usually need full-time care. For some, behaviour may change so much that their personality appears completely different and this can be one of the most difficult aspects for family and friends to adjust to.
A range of different diseases can cause dementia. Many of these are linked to an unusual build-up of proteins in the brain. These proteins can cause a decline in the function of nerve cells, shrinking different areas of the brain.
Each dementia disease is caused in its own way:
Diagnosis of dementia can take time – your doctor will carry out a range of assessments and these may need to be followed up by specialists.
If you are concerned about your own memory or brain function, or that of someone you know, the first step is to talk to your doctor or healthcare professional.
They will start by asking you questions about the changes you have noticed to your memory, as well as any other difficulties you may be experiencing in everyday life. They may also use specific questionnaires to assess your memory, language and orientation abilities. If you’re able to take a friend or relative along with you the doctor may find it helpful to talk to them about what they have noticed too.
There is no set test to find out if you have dementia – instead, your doctor will carry out a range of initial assessments and then refer you to a specialist for further assessments if necessary. This might include a neurologist (who specialises in the brain and nervous system), a geriatrician (who specialises in elderly care), or a psychiatrist or other mental health specialist.
Tests used in the diagnosis of dementia may include:
Often, memory problems can be caused by other factors, such as depression, an infection or an underactive thyroid. Taking these tests helps doctors to rule these out first.
There are many different treatment options for people living with dementia, and these should be tailored to the individual to reflect the type of dementia they have, as well as their specific needs.
A range of medication is available, as well as non-drug treatments such as therapies, activities and support; often a combination of these is the most effective approach.
National Parkinson Foundation. Parkinson’s dementia. Accessed February 2021. https://www.parkinson.org/sites/default/files/PD%20Dementia.pdf
World Health Organization. Areas of work: dementia. Accessed January 2021. https://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/noncommunicable-diseases/mental-health/areas-of-work/dementia