It may have happened to you a few times. You may have gone to the store but suddenly forgot half the items you planned to buy and not for the life of you could you remember what they were. Or you suddenly forgot when your mother’s birthday is. You may have even forgotten the way to your cottage a few cities away, even though you’ve been going there for years. Most of us have dismissed these episodes of forgetfulness and joked about getting old and having sclerosis. It is true that occasional memory loss does not immediately indicate a serious illness, but if memory problems are so severe that they interfere with everyday life and the sufferer becomes more and more dependent on the help of loved ones, it may unfortunately be caused by degenerative changes in the brain tissue, or dementia.
Causes of Dementia
Dementia is a serious mental disorder caused by a disease affecting the brain. It occurs most often as a result of degenerative or vascular brain diseases. The most common degenerative brain disease is the well-known Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease covers approximately one third of all dementias. Other illnesses include Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease. Cerebrovascular diseases (such as stroke), do not cause dementia directly, but rather appear together with degenerative diseases and worsen its course. So what are the symptoms of dementia? Among the most common are memory problems; the sufferer has slowed thoughts, impaired ability to store information in his or her memory, and forgets newly acquired information. Intellect generally remains unaffected, as well as the ability to remember very old experiences and memories (even from childhood). Other symptoms include disorientation, loss of judgement and logical thinking, speech difficulties and recognition. Noticeable are also behaviour changes, mood swings, emotional changes and even depression. It is important to note that severe dementia is the phase where everyday life, including social life, is affected, leading to a loss of self-sufficiency and ultimately to death.
Prevention and Treatment of Dementia
Is this disorder treatable? Unfortunately it is not. Despite all scientific and technical advances in medicine, successful treatment methods that would cure the patient of the illness have not yet been developed. So far there are only medications that can slow the degenerative changes and improve the memory function of the affected brain. Prompt detection is important in order to begin treatment as soon as possible, delaying the full development of the disease; when the patient is dependant solely on the help of loved ones. Prevention is also a big mystery at the moment. A major role in the development of this disease include factors that cannot be influenced, such as age and genetic predisposition, although, according to some clinical studies, a healthy life style and eating habits, as well as environment have significant positive effects on the function of the human brain, and therefore can passively prevent the development of this disease. It is also recommended to exercise the brain with various mental activities (such as crossword puzzles) in later age.
Today, diagnosis and treatment of this disease is a very serious medical and social problem in older individuals. About 3.4 million individuals aged 71 and older suffer from dementia in the United States alone. Alarmingly, only a small percentage is actually getting treatment. It is therefore important to visit a doctor following any signs or doubts so that he or she can perform any necessary examinations and in the event of positive results, refer you to an appropriate specialist, usually a psychiatrist.