Dementia or progressive cerebral dysfunction is a disorder characterized by impaired intellect, memory loss and altered personality. It usually occurs in age above 65.
Symptoms of Dementia commonly seen in patients are:
Alteration in personality
Impaired short term memory
Forgetting to perform basic tasks
Loss of interest
Loss of ability to reason
Dementia in the elderly can be due to multiple causes, some of which can be treated and dementia can be reversed.
The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer`s disease, which is an irreversible condition of the brain. In this disease the brain deteriorates. Another common cause that can cause dementia is series of small strokes; in this case early diagnosis can prevent the progress of this type of dementia. Other causes of irreversible dementia are Alcoholism, Parkinson`s disease, Huntington`s disease and AIDS.
Reversible causes of dementia include drug intoxication, depression and anxiety, blood sugar disorder, kidney disease, hypothyroidism, malnutrition, vitamin deficiency, trauma of brain or tumor of the brain, infections and Arteriosclerosis.
Any change in behavior and mental function requires a complete physical examination by a doctor. To find out the cause blood tests, x-rays and CT scans can be performed. If the underlying cause is reversible, then the doctor will treat the underlying cause to correct it. If the dementia is due to a irreversible cause like Alzheimer`s, then counseling and life style modification are suggested to the patient and the family, because in these cases the patient might need continuous care. In some cases antipsychotic medication are also prescribed by the doctor to treat the aggressive behavior.
Treatment of dementia depends on the underlying cause. If the cause is reversible, it can be treated for example drug interaction, the doctor may change the medication and mental health can be restored. In case of irreversible cause dementia progress as the disease progress, counseling and life style modification can help the patient in this process.
Avoid alcohol and drug abuse
Do not smoke
Eat a low fat diet and maintain blood pressure and blood cholesterol under normal range.
If the person is feeling depressed and is suffering from insomnia for more than a week seek medical help
When visiting a doctor list all the prescription drugs and the non prescription drugs that you are using.
Editor’s Note: Dr. Fasiha Hasham obtained her medical degree from Sindh Medical College and completed a residency at Jinnah Post Graduate Medical Centre in Pakistan before moving to the United States. Her specialties include Internal Medicine and Gynecology and Obstetrics. She is married with four children and lives in Farmington Hills, Michigan. The views expressed here are her own.