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Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease are different diseases, although they might share some features. Dementia is a disease that totally affects the memory, performance of daily activities, and communication skills. On the other hand, Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia. According to statistics, it’s the most common type of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease gets worse over time, and also affects the memory, thought, and language of the affected individual. The risk of developing this disease increases as one age, however, it’s not a norm for older adults. Although Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease might share some features, there are some significant differences between these two diseases.

What Is Dementia?

Dementia is a broad term for brain disorders that cause a long-term change, and a reduction in the ability of an individual to think. This disease affects the daily activity of the affected individual. It also causes emotional problems, language difficulties, and a reduction in motivation. The consciousness of the patient might not be affected. As earlier mentioned, the most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Statistics have shown that Alzheimer’s disease represents up to 70% of all dementia cases. Other types of dementia include Vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia and so on. Other less common types of dementia are Parkinson’s disease, normal pressure hydrocephalus, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and so on. It’s possible for an individual to present with more than one type of dementia at once. The diagnosis of dementia is usually done by taking a full history of the patient and also doing a medical imaging test on the patient. Blood tests can also be done. Other tests that are done include mini-mental state examination, an example of which is a cognitive test. Some of the ways of preventing the development of this disease are by reducing the exposure to the risk factors. Some of the risk factors of dementia include hypertension, diabetes mellitus, obesity, and so on. Dementia has no cure, although there are some medications that can help in slowing down the progression of the disease. Cholinesterase inhibitors lie donepezil are used often and have proved effective in mild and moderate cases of dementia. Some of the supportive care given to patients include cognitive and behavioural interventions. Exercise programs might also be helpful to patients.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Dementia?

An individual affected by dementia might present with various signs and symptoms. Some of the most commonly affected areas include the memory, problem-solving, attention and concentration, visual-spatial, and language. Most types of dementia are usually slow and progressive. Patients do not show any symptoms in the early stage of the disease. However, they present with symptoms after the disease has been occurring for a long time. Most patients do suffer from more than one type of dementia. Below are some of the signs and symptoms of dementia.

  • Memory loss: Patients tend to have memory problems. Patients might keep repeating the same type of question. Largely because they keep forgetting the answer.
  • Disorientation: Dementia patients tend to get lost easily. This also occurs even when they’re familiar with the environment.
  • Changes in mood: People affected by dementia tend to have sudden changes in their mood. They get irritated easily.
  • Lack of concentration: People affected with dementia tend to have problems focusing on a task. This is because their mind wanders around, leading to their inability to concentrate.
  • Problems completing a task: An individual affected with dementia usually find it difficult completing a task. This might even be a task they’re familiar with and have been doing for a long time.
  • Communications problem: Dementia patients find it difficult expressing themselves. They tend to forget simple words, and might even use the wrong ones.
  • They tend to misplace things: Dementia patients tend to misplace their stuff. Such as where they put their glasses, or where they put their car keys. This would be fine if it happens once in a while, but it could be a sign of dementia if you keep forgetting where you kept something so obvious, such as your house key.
  • Loss of interest in activities: People affected by dementia tend to lose interest in things they used to enjoy while they were healthy. They might also withdraw from social activities or from taking the cheap vacations and discount trips they once enjoyed.


What Are The Causes Of Dementia?

Dementia has so many causes that range from infection, endocrine, nutrition and so on

  • Neurological conditions: Some of the most common neurological diseases that cause dementia are Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease etc. These are progressive diseases, that initially present with mild symptoms, but the patient might end up having dementia, that might not be reversible, especially when the patient is old.
  • Mechanical injuries: Injuries like road traffic accidents, domestic accidents and any form of injury to the head might lead to dementia.
  • Infections: There are some infections that affect the central nervous system, impairing the function of the brain and spinal cord. Some of these types of infections are neurosyphilis and HIV.
  • Smoking and alcohol: Individuals who consume a lot of alcohol, consistently over a long time have higher chances of dementia. In addition to this, chronic smokers also have higher risks of having dementia than non-smokers.
  • Problems with the vasculature of the brain: There are some conditions that affect blood flow to the brain. Conditions such as ischemia if not promptly controlled can lead to dementia.
  • Endocrine disorders: It has been shown that endocrine disorders such as hypothyroidism lead to the loss of memory. However, this kind of dementia is reversible.
  • Nutrient deficiency: Vitamin deficiency, such as Cyanocobalamin can lead to the loss of memory. Although, just like endocrine disorders, it can be reversed as soon as the deficiency is corrected.
  • Other conditions: Diseases such as hydrocephalus, which is associated with the accumulation of fluid in the brain can also lead to dementia.

What Are The Stages Of Dementia?

Dementia can be divided into four different stages:

  1. Mild cognitive impairment: This stage of dementia is characterized by general forgetfulness. Patients tend to forget even the most available and familiar information. Although this occurs in a lot of people, it tends to develop to become dementia after some years.
  2. Mild dementia: People affected with mild dementia do present with cognitive disorders. They find it difficult processing complex things and making the right decisions. Some of the common presentations include loss of memory, confusion, loss of concentration, changes in mood, personality changes and so on.
  3. Moderate dementia: Patients affected with moderate dementia do find it difficult carrying out their daily activities. They usually find it difficult performing normal activities such as dressing up, using the toilet, and so on. They might also present serious personality changes such as mood alteration, anxiety, aggression and sometimes sleep troubles.
  4. Severe dementia: This is the most severe of all the types of dementia. They include the loss of the ability to communicate. Patients that fall under this category do require a caregiver to help them with their daily activities. They might find it difficult in performing tasks such as sitting properly. They also tend to lose their bladder control.

 What Are The Types Of Dementia?

1. Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that tends to start slow, then progresses over time. As earlier mentioned, it’s one of the most common variants of dementia, representing about 70% of all dementia cases. One of the earliest symptoms of Alzheimer’s is a loss of memory. Although, the affected individual tends to present with more signs and symptoms as the disease advances.

Some of the symptoms patient present with include:

  • lack of concentration
  • communication difficulties
  • language problems
  • sudden changes in mood
  • anxiety
  • lack of proper self-care
  • disorientation

Some of the bodily functions are lost as the disease progresses, which might eventually lead to death. The exact cause of this disease isn’t well understood yet, however, some risk factors have been identified. Genetics have been suggested to be the usual culprit in most cases of Alzheimer’s. Other factors include depression, high blood pressure, head trauma injuries and so on.

The diagnosis of this disease is done by a physician. They do this by taking the family and personal medical history of the patient. Cognitive tests and medical imaging tests might also be done. The early symptoms of this disease are usually confused with aging symptoms. However, the evaluation of the brain tissue is definitive for making a diagnosis. There are presently no medications or treatments to stop the progression of this disease, although the symptoms of the disease can be improved. Patients do require the help of a caregiver to continue to live a comfortable live.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Alzheimer’s Disease?

The signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease depend on the stage of the disease. As mentioned before, there are 3 stages of Alzheimer’s disease. They are mild, moderate and severe.

Signs And Symptoms Of Mild Alzheimer’s Disease

Patients rarely present with any sign at this stage. In fact, they might look healthy, but a lot would be going on in their head. They usually find it difficult making sense of what’s going on around them. The initial signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s do not show until years after the development of the disease. Below are some of the common symptoms;

  • Loss of memory: This usually concerns the short-term memory. They might have some difficulty remembering a recent event, or incidence, and have a hard time assimilating new knowledge. The loss of memory tends to worsen over time.
  • Lack of concentration: People affected with dementia tend to have problems focusing on a task. This is because their mind wanders around, leading to their inability to concentrate.
  • Reckless attitude: In most cases, they become restless and reckless. They make careless and unwise decisions.
  • Low mood and aggression: They tend to isolate themselves from social gatherings, and could sometimes become very aggressive. They might start showing a bit of apathy, but this isn’t usually very evident in the mild stage of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Problems completing a task: An individual affected with dementia usually find it difficult for completing a task. This might even be a task they’re familiar with,such as mowing the lawn, and have been doing for a long time.

Signs and Symptoms of Moderate Alzheimer’s Disease

Patients generally become more reliant on the help of caregivers. Caregivers are people that are employed to take care of people, especially sick people that can’t take care of themselves. This is done because the burden of taking care of them might be too much for the relatives and friends of the patient. Some of the signs of the moderate Alzheimer’s disease include:

  • Loss of memory: This also occurs in mild Alzheimer’s, except that it becomes more serious in the moderate stage. Although the patient has problems with his short-term memory, they start showing signs of long-term memory loss too, but it is subtle at this stage.
  • Worsening of their language and speech centre: Patients in the moderate stage of Alzheimer’s do have problems with activities such as writing, reading and calculations. Generally, there is a decrease in the number of words they use when speaking or writing.
  • Impairment in performing their tasks: At the moderate stage, patients usually have a hard time taking care of themselves. It’s worse than that experienced in the mild stage. Even taking a walk, or dressing might be difficult for them.
  • Reduction in brain plasticity: Patients in the moderate stage of Alzheimer’s find it difficult to learn new information and gain new knowledge. They become rigid in their behaviour and character. They would rather do things the same way, as in patterns. Changing the way, they think or pattern of thought becomes difficult for them, so they’d rather be rigid.
  • Visual Or Auditory Hallucinations: Patients in the moderate stage of Alzheimer tend to present with hallucinations. This could either be visual, or auditory hallucinations. Patients might complain of hearing some strange voices when in reality, there are no voices. It’s just their brain playing tricks on them, due to the brain deterioration. On the other hand, they could talk about seeing some people, that is not real. They tend to have a strong belief in false reality. These things appear real to them, that they would not believe otherwise. Other symptoms associated with moderate Alzheimer’s include delusions and paranoia.
  • They have a problem concentrating on tasks because of their increasingly short attention span.
  • Apathy
  • Anxiety

       What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Severe Alzheimer’s Disease?

Patients in the severe stage of Alzheimer’s disease find it difficult to live without assistance. They lack the ability to interact and communicate with people. They rely completely on the support of caregivers. They are usually bedridden at this stage. Below are some of the signs.

  • Loss of weight
  • Muscle atrophy: This occurs mostly as a result of the disuse of their muscles. Patients are mostly bedridden and would start losing their muscle mass because of disuse.
  • Infections: This also can be attributed to the idea that they’re bedridden, and can’t take care of themselves.

2. Lewy Body Dementia

Lewy body dementia is a type of dementia. It is the second most prevalent type of dementia, after Alzheimer’s disease. This disease occurs when there is an accumulation of protein materials, also known as Lewy bodies in the nerve cells in the brain regions, that are associated with memory, thinking and movement. This disease leads to a gradual deterioration in the mental abilities. People affected by this disease may present with signs and symptoms such as hallucinations, lack of concentration, the rigidity of muscles, and tremors.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Lewy Body Dementia?

  • Movement disorders: Lewy body patients do experience a dysfunction of their motor function. They tend to display some parkinsonian symptoms. Examples of parkinsonian symptoms include muscle rigidity, tremor, and slowed movement.
  • Visual hallucinations: This is one of the earliest symptoms of the disease. It presents in the early stage of the disease. However, they often recur. Patients might talk about seeing some things, that do not are there in reality, such as seeing animals, or different shapes that are not there. In addition, they can also have auditory, smell and tactile hallucinations.
  • Cognitive problems: People affected by Lewy body dementia do present with features that are similar to that of Alzheimer’s disease. They include confusion, lack of focus and attention, visual-spatial problems, and loss of memory.
  • Sleep difficulty: Patients tend to have regular nightmares. Also, they also experience problems associated with random eye movement sleep behaviour. This might cause patients to act out their dreams, even when they’re still asleep.
  • Loss of control of body functions: People affected by Lewy body dementia might present with problems in the regulation of the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system controls the blood pressure, digestive process, sweating and so on. This might lead to problems such as falls, dizziness and bowel disturbance.

 

What Are the Causes Of Lewy Body Dementia?

Lewy body dementia is caused by the accumulation of protein materials, also known as Lewy body in some parts of the brain. The main cause of Lewy body dementia isn’t known yet, however, the disease has been linked with a gene, known as PARK 11. Lewy body dementia often appears intermittently and doesn’t seem to have a strong hereditary link. The loss of cholinergic neurons has been attributed to be responsible for the degeneration of cognition in patients. On the other hand, the dopaminergic neurons have been implicated in the degeneration of motor control, which is responsible for its Parkinson’s symptoms. Also, the deposition of abnormal proteins in some parts of the brain have also been noticed. These protein substances are known as Lewy bodies. Individuals with Lewy bodies in their brain also tend to have plaques and tangles, similar to what is obtained in Alzheimer’s disease.

What Are The Risk Factors Of Lewy Body Dementia?

There are some factors that increase the risk of developing Lewy body dementia. Some of the factors include the following:

:Age: Research has shown that Lewy body dementia is more prevalent in people above the age of 60.

Gender: Lewy body dementia occurs more in males than in females.

Family history: People that have a relative that has suffered from Lewy body dementia have a high risk of developing Lewy body dementia

.Huntington’s Disease-This is an inherited disease that leads to the death of brain cells. It also one of the types of dementia. Some of the initial signs and symptoms of this disease include mild changes in mood and mental abilities. Patients might also present with a lack of coordination and an irregular gait. Other symptoms include jerky body movements. The symptoms often worsen over time. The signs and symptoms tend to manifest between the ages of 30 and 50, although they can start at any time. This is an autosomal dominant disease. The diagnosis of this disease is often done by genetic testing. The disease has no cure at the moment. Patients usually do require caregivers in the advanced stage of the disease. However, there are some medications and treatment procedures that can be given to relieve some of the symptoms and improve the quality of life of the patient.

Parkinson’s Disease – Parkinson’s disease is a chronic neurodegenerative disorder that mainly affects the central nervous system. This disease mainly affects the motor system. The signs and symptoms tend to worsen over time. Some of the initial symptoms include body tremor, slowed movement, difficulty with walking, problems thinking and behavioural problems, and so on. Dementia tends to occur in the advanced stage of the disease. Other common feature of Parkinson’s disease includes depression and anxiety, sensory and emotional problems. The main cause of this disease isn’t known yet, however, genetics and environmental factors have been identified to contribute most to this disease.

Care Centers For Dementia Diseases

There are care centres for patients who are in the moderate or severe stages of dementia. These centres do have different options ranging from caregivers that would be the patient at home. You can also take the family member affected by dementia to care centres for constant care. These kind of patients are difficult to take care of, especially when their families and friends can’t afford to be with them always.

 

References

Duncan, T. and Valenzuela, M. (2017). Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and stem cell therapy. Stem Cell Research & Therapy, 8(1).

LaFerla, F. (2011). Neural Stem cell transplants. Alzheimer’s & Dementia, 7(4), p.S489.

Scerri, C., Abela, S. and Innes, A. (2009). Dementia in Malta: Experiences of dementia patients and their caregivers. Alzheimer’s & Dementia, 5(4), p.P234.

Sugaya, K. (2008). S4-04-03: Stem cell therapeutic strategies for Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s & Dementia, 4(4), p.T182.

 

 

 

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