Head | Psychiatry | Dementia (Disease)


Dementia is a loss of mental abilities caused by malfunctioning or damaged brain cells.

The progression of dementia can be halted or reversed in some cases, particularly when the dementia is due to medications, alcohol abuse, hormonal or chemical imbalances, vitamin deficiency, depression, infection, heart or lung disease, normal pressure hydrocephalus (fluid collection in the brain), or brain tumors. The most common types of dementia, however, are progressive.

Dementia is not a single disease, but rather a non-specific illness syndrome (i. e. , set of signs and symptoms) in which affected areas of cognition may be memory, attention, language, and problem solving. It is normally required to be present for at least 6 months to be diagnosed; cognitive dysfunction that has been seen only over shorter times, in particular less than weeks, must be termed delirium. In all types of general cognitive dysfunction, higher mental functions are affected first in the process.

Symptoms of dementia can be classified as either reversible or irreversible, depending upon the etiology of the disease. Fewer than 10% of cases of dementia are due to causes that may presently be reversed with treatment. Symptoms of dementia include anxiety, apathy, difficulty communicating, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, memory loss, depression, poor judgment, and confusion.

Causes and Risk factors

A patient that suffers from dementia has a loss of mental abilities caused by malfunctioning or damaged brain cells. A person with dementia has difficulty thinking, concentrating, remembering and reasoning, which interferes with normal daily living. Dementia may be permanent or temporary, depending on the cause. Senile dementia is the most common type of dementia.

Causes include many different specific disease processes, in the same way that symptoms of organ dysfunction such as shortness of breath, jaundice, or pain are attributable to many etiologies.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Physical and history exams are usually performed, CT scan or MRI will be done to rule out structural defects that could be causing the disorder. Blood test are also done to identify a reversible cause of the symptoms.

Medical treatment depends on the severity of the disease and may include: serotonin-affecting drugs, dopamine blockers, cholinesterase inhibitors, mood stabilizers and/or stimulants such as methylphenidate to increase activity and spontaneity. Some patients may require long term 24 hour care as the disease progresses. ...

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