Dementia: Know causes, symptoms, precautions, and treatment

Dementia is common in old age groups, with symptoms including memory loss, difficulty in walking and inability of bladder control, but 50% neglect the symptoms.
Dementia: Know causes, symptoms, precautions, and treatment

Dementia is a term used to refer to different conditions that affect memory, thinking skills, and the ability to carry out everyday functioning. The condition is common among people above the age of 70.

Under most circumstances, people neglect the symptoms and refrain from taking treatment which will result in high severity of the disease. Since the symptoms are progressive, that is the problems start slowly and get worse with time, the experts recommend not to ignore and seek medical advice.

The causes for dementia, up to 15% are completely reversible, with the help of medical treatment including minor surgeries.

Major symptoms of dementia

Dementia is prevalent in around 7.4% of adults above the age of 60 in India. The prevalence is higher among women than men and in rural areas than in urban areas. This divide itself calls for creating awareness about the symptoms and the need to seek treatment.

Dr. Ramesh S, consultant neurosurgeon at Kamineni Hospital, Hyderabad said, “Dementia is common in old age groups, with symptoms including memory loss, difficulty in walking and inability of bladder control”.

The affected person shall be found repeating the same things; needing help from others to walk, forgetting recent things, having difficulty in finding words during a conversation, inappropriate behavior, and personality change.

Types of dementia

Alzheimer's is the most common type of dementia which accounts for around 60% to 70% of the cases. The Alzheimer's association categorizes dementia into vascular, dementia with Lewy bodies, frontotemporal, mixed, posterior cortical atrophy, and normal pressure hydrocephalus.

Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus

A reason for an individual to develop dementia-like symptoms is normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH), a condition when cerebrospinal fluid builds up inside the skull and pressurizes the brain.

The cerebrospinal fluid is a clear and colorless fluid that flows in and around the brain and spinal cord (the central nervous system). It provides nourishment, waste removal, and protection to the brain. However, the fluid building up inside the skull results in negative impacts.

The youngsters can even slip into a coma if the fluid builds up inside the skull, but since the brain shrinks with age, elderly people suffer from memory loss and other symptoms of dementia mentioned above.

Timely treatment can even reverse the normal pressure hydrocephalus, which the experts strongly recommend.

Treatment shall bring back near-normalcy

Any minor changes in the behavior of elderly people, concerning memory loss or behavioral changes should be looked after properly.

“Around 50% of those having the symptoms neglect it believing that it is due to ageing. Receiving treatment can bring back near-normalcy to the patients. Placing a tube called shunt into the brain to remove the excess fluid to the abdomen”, Dr Ramesh said.

Even though most types of dementia are irreversible, identifying symptoms early and visiting a neurosurgeon can identify the type of dementia and ensure the possible reversibility for bringing back the individual to normal life.

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