Dementia – defined as a category of brain diseases of various kinds that impair a person’s ability to think clearly, to make judgements and decisions, and to remember things — is one of the biggest health concerns for seniors. Many people struggle with some degree of impaired memory and cognition related to age, often due to any of a number of age-related neurodegenerative diseases that develop and worsen over time.
While Alzheimer’s disease is the most well known condition that causes dementia, there are actually quite a few different conditions — some neurological, some involving other systems in the body — that can result in dementia, and to which people become more vulnerable as they age.
However, there are also quite a few other health conditions that can also cause dementia.
Common Reversible Causes of Dementia
Some forms of dementia have a root cause that’s treatable and reversible, unlike diseases like Alzheimer’s that are still not curable yet.
These can be infectious illnesses, vitamin deficiencies, and other health problems that affect brain function. Some of the most common include:
- Hypothyroidism, an endocrine disorder;
- Vitamin B12 deficiency, a common dietary deficiency easily remedies with supplements and dietary changes;
- Lyme disease, a transmissible bacterial illness carried by deer ticks;
- Neurosyphilis, a manifestation of the sexually transmitted viral disease syphilis, which is treatable with antiviral medications.
In many cases, these need to be ruled out in people with certain risk factors when looking for the root causes of dementia.
An estimated 20% of dementia cases are diagnosable as “vascular dementia.” This means the cognitive issues are actually caused by problems with blood flow to the person’s brain.
In many cases, the precipitating event is a series of small, minor strokes, which can go undetected at first. This type of dementia can get worse over time if the ischemic events recur, as they can damage areas of the brain that are crucial to cognition and memory.
There are quite a few risk factors that increase a person’s likelihood of getting vascular dementia, including tobacco use, high blood pressure, diabetes, or a history of previous heart attacks.
You can reduce your risk through lifestyle changes that can help your heart and cardiovascular system stay healthy.
Lewy Body Dementia
Dementia with lewy bodies is a neurodegenerative disease with onset in old age, much like Alzheimer’s. However, its effects are different from those of Alzheimer’s disease, as are the underlying brain abnormalities that are detected by neuroimaging studies.
Lewy body dementia produces symptoms resembling Parkinson’s disease, like tremors, muscle rigidity, and a decreased ability to form facial expressions. Visual hallucinations are also common, along with problems with visual and spatial functions, due to problems in the occipital lobe of the brain, a key visual center.
The hallucinations themselves can be surprisingly realistic and detailed. They often involve animals or people, including family members. They can be realistic enough that the person mistakes them for being real, although many people do eventually realize that what they’re seeing isn’t really there. While the hallucinations can sometimes be scary, they are usually emotionally neutral.
It’s important to note that the person is not “going crazy.” The hallucinations are not the result of anything psychiatric; they’re caused by physical problems in the brain.
Frontotemporal dementia is caused by problems localized in the brain’s frontal lobes and temporal lobes. This generally results in behavioral changes, as well as problems using language.
There are three variants of frontotemporal dementia:
- Behavioral variant. These patients have changes in their conduct and their social behavior. The lose social awareness of things like what’s appropriate to say or do. They also have poor impulse control.
- Semantic variant. This type of frontotemporal dementia is characterized by a loss of the ability to understand language, specifically word meanings. They can still speak fluently, and their grammar is fine, but they have trouble understanding what other people are saying.
- Progressive nonfluent aphasia. Rather than problems understanding speech, this variant involves more issues with speech production. The person has trouble speaking normally, and getting words to come out correctly. This gets gradually worse over time.
If your loved one is suffering from dementia and needs an appropriate facility to meet their needs, Senior Care Center can help you. Give us a call today at (855) 242-9668 to speak to a Senior Care Advisor today. To read more about memory care homes, visit our webpage here.