Common Signs & Symptoms of Dementia

Understanding Dementia

Learn About Dementia

Dementia itself is not a disease, but rather a group of symptoms that are caused by various diseases or conditions. Dementia is characterized by a loss in mental functions, such as thinking, memory, and reasoning that is severe enough to interfere with a person’s ability to function on a daily basis. Symptoms of dementia can also include changes in personality, mood, and behavior. Dementia may also result in the impairment of one’s ability to think clearly, one’s ability to use language appropriately, and one’s ability to use sound judgment. There are as many as 50 known causes of dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common. Since some of the causes of dementia can be cured or partially treated, it is important that you seek treatment as soon as possible.

Statistics

Dementia Statistics

Dementia is believed to be one of the world’s fastest growing diseases. It has been estimated that there are approximately 24 million people worldwide who are living with some form of dementia. In America, the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, affects around 13% of individuals over the age of 65.

Causes & Risks

Causes and Risk Factors of Dementia

Dementia involves damage to the nerve cells in the brain and many factors can eventually lead to the development of dementia. The following are some examples of various causes and risk factors that have been known to contribute to the onset of dementia:

Genetic: For those men and women that have a family history of dementia, they are at a greater risk for developing the condition. Additionally, having specific genetic mutations can put an individual at a significantly greater risk.

Physical: Dementia is typically caused by a degeneration of cells in the cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex is the part of the brain that is responsible for controlling a person’s thoughts, memories, actions, and various aspects of his or her personality. The death of the brain cells in this area results in the development of cognitive impairment, leading to onset of dementia.

Environmental: It is believed that environmental factors can play a role in the development of dementia. Studies have shown that when people are exposed to certain chemicals, such as lead, particulate air pollution, and aluminum, they are at risk for experiencing a decline in cognition. It is also believed that when people are exposed to these types of toxic chemicals, their risk for developing a cognitive decline at an earlier age increases.

Risk Factors:

  • Increasing in age
  • Having Down syndrome
  • Suffering from a brain injury
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Having infections that affect the brain, such as syphilis or HIV/AIDS
  • History of Parkinson’s disease
  • History of Huntington’s disease
  • History of multiple sclerosis
  • Exposure to certain chemicals
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Having high cholesterol

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Dementia

The signs and symptoms of dementia will vary depending upon the cause and the length of time that the individual has been struggling with the disease. The following are some examples of common signs and symptoms that an individual with dementia may exhibit:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Increased restlessness
  • Getting lost in familiar places
  • Social withdrawal
  • Violent behavior
  • Difficulty performing complex tasks
  • Difficulty planning and organizing
  • Agitation
  • Misplacing commonly used items
  • Loss of the ability to perform familiar tasks
  • Language problems (e.g. having difficulty putting thoughts into words)

Physical symptoms:

  • Decline in personal hygiene
  • Tremors
  • Muscle weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Impaired motor functioning
  • Poor balance
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Sudden weight loss

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Memory loss
  • Inability to reason
  • Loss of object recognition
  • Impaired orientation (i.e. not oriented to person, place, time, and/or situation)
  • Impaired perception
  • Poor judgment
  • Decreased ability to pay attention
  • Comprehension disturbances
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Impaired ability to think in abstract ways

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Being overly suspicious
  • Psychosis
  • Delusions
  • Increased agitation

Lasting Effects

Effects of Dementia

The effects of dementia can negatively impact both the individual suffering from the symptoms, as well as the people in that person’s life. The following are some examples of the complications that can occur in an individual who has dementia:

  • Increased levels of aggression
  • Difficulty taking medications
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Becoming suspicious of other people
  • Repeating questions or participating in repetitive activities
  • Forgetting his or her friends and family
  • Long-term memory loss
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Getting lost
  • Unsteady gait / falling

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders

It is not uncommon for dementia to occur alongside other types of illnesses. Some examples of the various disorders that have been known to co-exist with dementia include:

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Other anxiety disorders
  • Psychosis
  • Alcohol and substance abuse
  • Depressive disorders
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Huntington’s disease

I was completely lost when my husband was diagnosed with dementia. Fortunately, Seven Hills was able to help us. Now, we are more optimistic about the future knowing that Seven Hills will be at our side.

– Darla F.