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What Is Dementia?

Dementia is the collective name given to a group of symptoms that are caused by the impairment of brain functions. Dementia in the elderly, which used to be known as senile dementia, is most common, but some types of dementia can affect much younger people.

In order to be considered to be suffering from dementia, two or more types of brain activities must be impaired to the point where they are interfering with normal day-to-day social and mental functioning. Examples of improper brain functions that occur most often in people with dementia include deteriorated language skills and distorted judgment, as well as the symptom that is most closely associated with dementia: memory loss.

Causes of Dementia

The neurology of dementia is not fully understood — experts aren’t sure exactly how or why it develops. What they do know is that, while Alzheimer’s disease is the number-one cause of dementia, accounting for between 60 and 80 percent of cases, there are many illnesses that can trigger dementia symptoms.

What Is Dementia's Demographic?

According to a 2007 study, almost 14 percent of Americans over 71 suffer from some form of dementia. The prevalence of dementia in the population increases with age: only 5 percent of people in their 70s have dementia, versus over one-third of those over age 90.

For example, the second most common type of dementia after that caused by Alzheimer’s disease is vascular dementia. This kind of dementia results from damage done to the brain when arteries are temporarily unable to properly deliver oxygenated blood, damage which is often caused by stroke.

Non-illness-related conditions that can cause someone to exhibit symptoms of dementia include head trauma, drug reactions and nutrient deficiencies.

Dementia Care and Treatment

The primary treatment method for dementia is medication. If caught and treated in their early stages, some kinds of dementia not caused by an illness can actually be stopped and even reversed. Unfortunately, this is not the case with progressive dementias, such as Alzheimer’s-related dementia. Medication can significantly improve symptoms and slow their progression, but the condition of people with progressive dementias will inevitably continue to worsen.

Another advantage of catching dementia symptoms in their early stages is that people with any kind of dementia can benefit from mental prompts and exercises that address the particular brain-function problems they’re having, such as labeling things with sticky notes or using mnemonic devices

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