Dementia a growing concern with the aging population- A perspective
Dementia isn’t a specific disease. Instead, it describes a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily functioning.
Though dementia generally involves memory loss, memory loss has different causes–
- Alzheimer’s disease which accounts for 60 to 80% of cases.
- Vascular dementia which occurs after stroke is the second common type of dementia.
- Thyroid problems.
- Vitamin deficiencies.
- Dementia with Lewy bodies(DLB).
- Mixed dementia.
- Frontotemporal dementia.
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
- Normal pressure hydrocephalus.
- Huntington’s Disease.
- Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome.
Dementia symptoms vary depending on the cause, but common signs and symptoms include:
- Memory loss, which is usually noticed by a spouse or someone else.
- Difficulty communicating or finding words
- Difficulty reasoning or problem-solving.
- Difficulty handling complex tasks.
- Difficulty with planning and organizing.
- Difficulty with coordination and motor functions.
- Confusion and disorientation.
- Personality changes.
- Inappropriate behavior
- Inappropriate behavior.
There is no single test for dementia, but a combination of tests like
- Collecting patient medical history–This is usually done by GP to know how and when the symptoms started and if they are affecting daily activities, to check for any existing condition and how it is being managed and to review any medication being taken by the patient.
- Mental ability tests–There are many tests available, the most common one being used by GPs is the GPCOG. Mental ability tests can’t diagnose dementia but may identify memory difficulties. These tests are aimed to assess different mental abilities like short- and long-term memory, concentration and attention span, language and communication skills and awareness of time and space.
- Blood tests to identify any underlying condition–Blood tests are done to check liver function, kidney function, thyroid function, haemoglobin A1c and vitamin B12 and folate levels.
- Dementia brain scans–These scans are usually done to check for other problems like stroke or brain tumor.
- MRI scans–These scans are done to confirm diagnosis of dementia and the type of disease causing the dementia; provide detailed information about the blood vessel damage that occurs in vascular dementia; shrinkage of frontal and temporal lobes in case of frontotemporal dementia.
- SPECT scan or PET scan–This is recommended if result of MRI is uncertain.
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