Dementia is the term for a series of symptoms that affect the brain’s cognitive function; from loss of memory and language skills to thoughts and problem solving. These symptoms often begin gradually and continue until the person is not longer able to live their normal life. The disease is usually caused by the brain being damaged by Alzheimer’s or a series of small strokes, but this is not exhaustive. It is common for patients with dementia to experience changes in mood or general temperament and perhaps become agitated and even aggressive which can be upsetting to those close to them.
Not only can regular physical activity and a healthy diet reduce the risk of cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer's, it can also be instrumental to ensuring a good quality of life for those with dementia and could even slow the degeneration of the brain, therefore it is imperative that early signs are recognised and the appropriate treatment given.
There are different signs of dementia, depending on whether it is caused by Alzheimer's, vascular, frontotemporal or dementia with Lewy bodies (types referred to below). Alzheimer’s is the most common of dementia for people under 65, below are some of the common signs of the disease:
When dementia becomes advanced, a person may experience the following symptoms, all of which can be extremely distressing for both the person affected and their loved ones. At this stage of the disease the need for a higher level of care is needed.
The main cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, a condition where an abnormal protein surrounds the brain and another protein begins to attack and kills brain cells. This then results in the forgetfulness and early onset dementia signs such as loss of memory and difficulty with numbers.
Another cause of the condition is Vascular dementia - a condition where lack of oxygen to the brain (often a result of a stroke or series of mini strokes) cause brain cells to be damaged or perished.
Dementia with Lewy bodies is a condition where the brain develops abnormal structures (called Lewy bodies) which disrupt the brain and cause the death of brain cells. This type of dementia often results in similar symptoms to Parkinson's disease, such as difficulty judging distances and having trouble keeping alert.
Frontotemporal dementia can develop when the front and side parts of the brain are damaged. Abnormal proteins grow within the brain cells and cause them to die. The early signs of Frontotemporal dementia differ depending on the areas of the brain affected, but can include changes in personality and behaviour, with some people having trouble with their speech.
There are various strains of the disease, the most common are listed below: