Various signs and symptoms of dementia in patients include memory loss, impaired abstraction and planning, language and comprehension disturbances, poor judgement, impaired orientation ability, decreased attention and increased restlessness, lack of interest, behavioural changes and psychosis, sleep disturbances, hallucinations and so on. The loss of cognitive abilities that occurs with dementia leads to impairments in memory, reasoning, planning, and behavior. Care for a person with dementia can be difficult and complex.
Dementia usually is caused by degeneration in the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain responsible for thoughts, memories, actions and personality. Death of brain cells in this region leads to the cognitive impairment that characterizes dementia. Alzheimer’s disease or AD is the most common cause, followed by vascular or multi-infarct dementia. Vascular dementia occurs from decrease in blood flow to the brain, most commonly due to a series of small strokes (multi-infarct dementia). Other cerebrovascular causes include vasculitis from syphilis, Lyme disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, subdural hematoma, and subarachnoid hemorrhage. Because of the usually sudden nature of its cause, the symptoms of vascular dementia tend to begin more abruptly than those of Alzheimer’s dementia. Symptoms may progress stepwise with the occurrence of new strokes. Unlike AD, the incidence of vascular dementia is lower after age 75. Dementia can also occur due to many other conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, brain tumor, head trauma, hypercalcemia, vitamin deficiency, aids and so on. Delirium may occur with dementia. Dementia progresses slowly whereas delirium develops quickly and usually fluctuates in intensity.
As dementia progresses slowly, diagnosing it in its early stages can be difficult. Thus early diagnosis is important to slow the effects of dementia. A family history of either AD or cerebrovascular disease may provide clues to the cause of symptoms. Simple tests of mental function, including word recall, object naming, and number-symbol matching, are used to track changes in the person’s cognitive ability. A variety of medical tests may be necessary to determine dementia. Cerebrovascular disease, hydrocephalus, and tumors may be diagnosed with x rays, CT or MRI scans, and vascular imaging studies. Blood tests may reveal nutritional deficiencies or hormone imbalances.
Sign and Symptoms of dementia may be treated with a combination of psychotherapy, environmental modifications, and medication. Two drugs, tacrine and donepezil are commonly prescribed for AD. These drugs inhibit the breakdown of acetylcholine in the brain, prolonging its ability to conduct chemical messages between brain cells. They provide temporary improvement in cognitive functions for some patients with mild to moderate AD and help delay disease progression.