What is Dementia and What Causes Dementia?

Individuals suffering from dementia have a loss in their mental functions affecting memory, reasoning, and thinking. Although not a disease, it is a group of symptoms caused by a disease or condition. However, pseudo or false dementia is treatable if, for example, it is due to an infection or certain nutritional deficiencies. Decision-making, language, learning, thinking, and reasoning are parts of the brain affected by dementias.

Overview of Causes
Of all the causes of this condition, Alzheimer’s is the most common. Although some forms of dementia are irreversible, other types are reversible and treatable. Two commonalities classify dementias such as what part of the brain is affected or whether they worsen over time.

Additionally, several dementia types vary according to the cause:

Progressive Dementias
These types of dementias do not get better and progressively worsen over time. Generally, people 65 and older suffer from Alzheimer’s disease but symptoms begin after 60 years of age. Conversely, a defective gene usually causes an earlier onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

The causes for the disease are unknown, but brain cell, also known as neuron, damage like plaques and tangles are common. Beta-amyloid protein, usually harmless, is a plaque that clumps, and tangles are abnormal fibrous protein called tau. Either one of these conditions contribute to dementia. Over the span of approximately seven to 10 years, Alzheimer’s causes a steady decrease in cognitive functions. Ultimately, the areas of the brain improperly work and affect critical functioning like abstract thinking, behavior, language, judgment, and memory.

Lewy Bodies Dementia
Sufferers of Lewy bodies dementia have abnormal clumps of protein in their brains. Statistics reveal that 20 percent of people have Lewy bodies and is common as they age. The symptoms of Alzheimer and Parkinson’s diseases are confused with this type of dementia. In contrast to progressive dementias, sufferers will have periods of clear thinking and visual hallucinations. In addition, Parkinson’s disease symptoms like rigidity and tremor are confused with Lewy bodies. Another condition associated with this dementia is REM sleep disorder behavior. The disorder’s chief characteristic of acting out dreams is thrashing or kicking while sleeping.

Vascular
Problems with the brain’s arteries cause the second most common type of dementia next to Alzheimer’s disease. One obvious difference is the suddenness of symptoms-often after a stroke. If there is a history of high blood pressure, previous stroke, or heart attack, this may cause vascular dementia. Other causes are heart valve infection and excessive brain amyloid protein that may cause bleeding strokes.

Frontotemporal
A less common dementia affects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain because of nerve cell degeneration. Unlike Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia typically occurs in people between the ages of 40 and 70. The degenerated nerve cells of the brain lobes affect behavior, language, and personality.

Associated Disorders
Several diseases and conditions are associated with dementia: Huntington’s disease, pugilistica, HIV-human immunodeficiency virus dementia, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and secondary dementias.

  • Huntington’s disease is a wasting away of the brain and spinal cord due to nerve cell damage. Sufferers experience troublesome symptoms like walking difficulties and clumsiness.
  • Pugilistica dementia is the result of repeated head trauma causing brain injury. As an example, fighters endure head trauma because of boxing and dementia onset may not appear until many years later.
  • HIV causing AIDS-acquired immune deficiency syndrome leading to extensive destruction of brain matter is HIV associated dementia.
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is a rare brain disorder that is fatal and strikes individuals without known risk factors. Signs and symptoms start with coordination problems in individuals approximately 60 years of age.

Not fully understood, secondary dementias coexist with other diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.

Reversible Causes
It is possible to cure dementia if the causes are treatable. Some dementias with possible treatment and cure are metabolic problems and endocrine abnormalities such as thyroid issues and inability to process vitamin B-12; nutritional deficiencies like vitamin B-1; poisons including exposure to lead and pesticides or alcohol and illegal drugs; and anoxia or hypoxia due to lack of oxygen to the brain.

For an accurate diagnosis of dementia, consult a healthcare professional specializing in and understanding the intricacies of dementias.