Before we address the causes of dementia, let’s address just “what is dementia”?
When you hear the word “dementia”, many different things come to mind. To many it brings thoughts of old age and memory loss. To others, it means the inability to think clearly or loss of mental sharpness.
Please take time to visit Dementia for the Caregiver to help you understand how this knowledge will empower you to become an educated and confident caregiver.
It is first important to understand that dementia is not a normal part of aging. Dementia is actually a category of diseases that cause a progressive impairment of brain function in an alert and normal functioning individual. Dementia is a syndrome that presents itself as a characteristic of a disease or as a result of lifestyle choices, such as alcoholism. Dementia is a progressive decline in mental cognition. More simply put, cognition is the brains ability to feel emotions, remember things, problem solve, plan, organize. Our cognitive abilities also include executive functions such as making morale decisions and judgments. Dementia is the loss of mental abilities that affect a person to be able to function independently. See symptoms of dementia here
Causes of dementia
Conditions that cause degeneration or loss of neuron’s (or nerve cells) in the brain. These conditions include: Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's.
Diseases that affect blood flow to the brain, such as stroke, or multiple TIA’s (meaning mini strokes). This may cause a condition known as multi-infarct dementia.
Life style habits such as alcoholism or excessive drug use can cause chronic insult to the brain resulting in a toxic reaction.
Vitamin deficiencies such as low vitamin B12 or folate can cause dementia
The insult of infections that affect the brain or spinal column can cause dementia. You will find this in AID’s patients or in a condition known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
Fluid on the brain, injury to the brain, some developmental anomalies and brain tumors can be causes of dementia.
Trauma to the head, whether a one time severe blow to the head or an accumulation of small injuries, such as multiple concussions.
Some chronic illnesses that affect the kidney, lung or liver may lead to dementia.
Statistics show that approximately 60% of all dementias are caused by Alzheimer’s disease. You will see a change in these statics in the future, as there are two diseases that affect the nervous system have recently been identified. These conditions, Pick’s disease and Lewy Body disease, have been incorrectly diagnosed as Alzheimer’s, in the past. New technology and research has identified these conditions and will affect the approach and treatment of the individuals diagnosed with these conditions.
It is important to note, that some of the causes of dementia are treatable. This of course will depend on the actual cause of the disease. Diseases that cause chronic and progressive brain deterioration are not.