What is Dementia?

What is Dementia?

According to the South African Concise Oxford Dictionary dementia means “a chronic or persistent mental disorder marked by memory failure, personality changes, and impaired reasoning.” Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease or even a series of strokes. It is rarely one specific disease. Dementia is progressive, which means that the symptoms will gradually get worse. Brain function is affected enough to interfere with the person’s normal social or working life.

Dementia is an umbrella term for symptoms that occur when the brain is affected by certain diseases and conditions. There are quite a few different types of dementia and they are often named after the disease that has caused them.

But who is affected? Mostly dementia occurs in older people, but it is important to note that not all older people get dementia and it is not a normal part of ageing. Dementia can happen to anybody, but it is more common after the age of 65 years. People in their 40s and 50s can also have dementia.

But is it dementia? There are a number of conditions that produce symptoms similar to dementia. These include some vitamin and hormone deficiencies, depression, medication clashes or overmedication, infections and brain tumours. It is essential that a medical diagnosis is obtained at an early stage when symptoms first appear to ensure that a person who has a treatable condition is diagnosed and treated correctly. If the symptoms are caused by dementia, an early diagnosis will mean early access to support, information, and medication should it be available.

Can I inherit dementia? This will depend on the cause of the dementia, so it is important to have a firm medical diagnosis. If there are concerns about the risk of inheriting dementia, consult your doctor. Most cases of dementia are not inherited.

What are the early signs of dementia? The early signs of dementia are very subtle and vague and may not be immediately obvious. Some common symptoms may include:

  • Progressive and frequent memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Personality change
  • Apathy and withdrawal
  • Loss of ability to perform everyday tasks.

Sources: www.alzheimers.org.uk/



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