Common Form of Dementia: Alzheimer's Disease
- Alzheimer's disease is the most common and earliest form of dementia. According to the Alzheimer's Association, it is also one of more insidious forms of dementia, infecting 5.3 million people and currently being the seventh leading cause of death. The first symptom of the disease is the chronic loss of short-term memory, followed by difficulties in acquiring and processing new information. In later years, after the onset of initial symptoms, patients may experience significant long-term memory loss coupled with mental and physical disability. Patients experiencing the disease may become secluded and melancholy, lose control over bodily functions and may cease to recognize the faces of family and friends. The older someone gets, the greater the chance is of acquiring the disease. At age 65, the chances of getting the disease is one in fifty. By 85, the chance rises to as high as one in two.
- Dementia screening involves taking note of any aphasia, apraxia, agnosia and executive dysfunction symptoms. Aphasia is the loss of the ability to speak and understand spoken or written language. It should be noted whether the patient has difficulty speaking, incorrectly substitutes words in sentences or loses his train of thought. Apraxia is a disorder of the patient's nervous system, which can express itself in an impairment in executing skilled tasks, such as personal grooming or feeding skills. Agnosia is the partial or complete inability to recognize objects via the senses, such as an impaired ability to recognize everyday objects or personal items. Executive dysfunction involves a reduced ability in making mental shifts or communicating thoughts and needs.
- Medical treatments for dementia focus on correcting reversible damage and slowing down irreversible factors. This can improve cognitive function, even with people with irreversible forms of dementia like Alzheimer's disease. Cholinesterase inhibitors slow the progress of dementia. By stopping the breakdown of neurotransmitters and increasing the acetylcholine in the brain, the medication helps improve brain function. Cholinesterase inhibitors help stabilize the patient and increase cognitive function.
- Many seniors require ongoing medication for heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes and a plethora of other ailments. Often such medications can possibly aggravate the onset of dementia. According to eMedicine Health, there is no specific surgical method that can remove dementia from the patient. Surgery can help relieve underlying conditions that may help relieve dementia symptoms, such as removing brain tumors or cysts or drainage of excess brain fluid.
- Maintaining a heart and brain healthy life style that includes a balanced diet, regular exercise and moderate consumption of alcohol may help prevent some types of dementia. Using protective gear like helmets and seat belts will ensure the physical safety of the brain and help prevent head injury. There is no proven way to prevent irreversible dementia.