What is Dementia? Symptoms, Causes & Treatment


Dementia is a word used to describe a loss of memory, language, problem-solving, and other mental abilities that is severe enough to affect everyday living. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease.

Dementia is not a single disease; it’s an umbrella word that encompasses a wide range of medical problems, including Alzheimer’s disease, similar to heart disease. Abnormal brain alterations create the disorders included under the umbrella term “dementia.” These alterations cause a deterioration in thinking abilities, also known as cognitive capacities, that is severe enough to interfere with everyday living and independence.

They also have an impact on one’s conduct, emotions, and relationships.
Alzheimer’s disease is responsible for 60-80% of instances. The second most prevalent type of dementia is vascular dementia, which is caused by microscopic bleeding and blood artery obstruction in the brain.

What Causes Dementia?

The two most common causes of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease and vascular disease. Head traumas, alcoholism, Parkinson’s disease, and other illnesses are all possible causes, albeit they are less common.

If you know someone who is developing dementia, it’s crucial to recognize that the changes in thinking are caused by brain damage, and that person will need to be evaluated medically to establish if the dementia is transient or permanent. Infection-related dementia and medicine adverse effects may often be reversed, while dementia caused by degenerative disorders cannot.

While the majority of the abnormalities in the brain that produce dementia are irreversible and worsen with time, thinking and memory impairments caused by the following diseases may improve when treated or addressed:

  • Depression.
  • Medication side effects.
  • Excess use of alcohol.
  • Thyroid problems.
  • Vitamin deficiencies.

What Happens When Someone Gets Dementia?

Your loved one may get agitated as a result of dementia. Emotional distress and behavioral changes are common. Some people suffer minor agitation, which causes them to behave in unusual ways. Because it is normal for persons in this state to become stubborn or apprehensive, those with more acute agitation may require carers or supervisors who can reassure them.

You can run into the following concerns with your behavior:

  • Demands for attention
  • Pacing, searching, or rummaging
  • Hitting
  • Biting
  • Yelling
  • Threatening
  • Stubborn refusals to participate
  • Irritability and frustration

Diagnosis of dementia

There is no single test that can be used to identify whether or not someone has dementia. Doctors identify Alzheimer’s disease and other varieties of dementia based on a thorough medical history, physical examination, laboratory tests, and the distinct changes in thinking, day-to-day function, and behavior associated with each type of dementia. Doctors have a high degree of certainty in determining whether or not a person has dementia.

How Can I Treat Dementia?

Professionals manage dementia and the agitation that comes with it in a variety of methods, including creating the correct environment, administering drugs, and providing family support. When people are physically uncomfortable, for example, they may become agitated. Doctors will most likely speak with the patient’s family about maintaining a routine and providing support.

Medications can also aid in the reduction of agitation. In an emergency, sedation may be administered to make a patient sleepy for a few hours. Long-term treatments are available that do not cause these side effects, although it can take weeks for medication to start working. Antipsychotics can aid with delirium and psychosis, while benzodiazepines or trazodone are sometimes prescribed for insomnia.

Dementia risk and prevention

Some dementia risk factors, such as age and genetics, are unchangeable. However, experts are still looking into the effects of additional risk factors on brain health and dementia prevention.

Multiple healthy lifestyle choices, such as a healthy diet, not smoking, regular exercise, and cognitive stimulation, may reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia, according to research presented at the 2019 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference®.

View Resources

  • Ncdhhs.gov – Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias
  • Guideline.gov – Management of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias
  • Ghr.nlm.nih.gov – Genetics Home Reference
  • Nlm.nih.gov – Dementia due to metabolic causes
  • Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia in developing countries: prevalence, management, and risk factors.