What is dementia?
Dementia is an 'umbrella' term that covers a range of different symptoms or diagnosed conditions that result from organic, degenerative changes within the brain. Symptoms can include memory loss, confusion, mood changes, problem solving and word searching difficulties.
Types of dementia include:-
Alzheimer's disease is the most commonly diagnosed type of dementia, affecting over 400,000 people in the UK. The condition causes protein 'plaques' and 'tangles' to develop within the brain which cause brain cells to die at a more accelerated rate than they would in the normal process of ageing.
Vascular dementia is the second most commonly diagnosed dementia. The brain requires a regular supply of blood and oxygen, however if this supply is affected in any way brain cells are damaged and may die. When the affected brain cells cease to function correctly or die Vascular Dementia may develop.
Dementia with Lewy Bodies
Dementia with Lewy Bodies results when abnormal collections of protein, known as Lewy bodies occur within the nerve cells of the brain, which leads to the degeneration of brain tissue.
Korsakoff's syndrome is a brain disorder that is predominantly caused by excessive consumption of alcohol over a prolonged period of time. Korsakoff's syndrome is caused by a lack of thiamine (vitamin B1), which affects the brain and nervous system. Although is not a 'true' form of dementia, people with the condition experience short-term memory loss.
Fronto Temporal Dementia
People who have been diagnosed with Fronto Temporal Dementia have areas of damage that are situated within the front part of the brain, which may result in personality changes and fluctuations in mood.
Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)
This diagnosis is given when a person has mild memory problems and may have a reduction in their problem solving abilities and concentration. A diagnosis of dementia cannot be given as the symptoms are not severe and do not warrant this diagnosis. (N.B. people who have a diagnosis of Mild Cognitive Impairment do not necessarily go on to develop dementia.)
Rarer forms of Dementia
There are other diseases that may lead a person to develop dementia, such as HIV/AIDS, Creutzfeldt−Jakob disease (CJD), Parkinson's disease and Huntington's disease.
Are you worried about your memory?
Some degree of memory loss is a normal part of the ageing process. We have all occasionally walked into a room for a reason and then wondered what we had come in for! However some symptoms are NOT just a normal part of getting older, for example frequently forgetting recent events, not recognising familiar faces such as neighbours or frequently having difficulty in finding the right words during conversations.
There are many other factors that can affect our memory and cognitive functioning apart from dementia such as:-
Bereavement and loss.
Undiagnosed physical conditions such as urinary tract infections, thyroid problems, diabetes and sodium deficiency.
If you have any concerns about your memory it is important that you visit your G.P., who can arrange a series of tests that will check for any physical, underlying causes for your symptoms.
NIH National Institute on Aging
NHS Guide NHS Guide to Dementia
DOH Guide Dept of Health Guide
@05 Local services in Warrington