Dementia is not a disease, rather a syndrome characterised by a wide range of symptoms that cause gradual deterioration in memory, thought process, communication, concentration, reasoning, judgement and visual perception. Dementia is a global health crisis which affects 47.5 million people worldwide, with 7.7 million new cases arising yearly.
Experiencing memory problems is not a definite indicator of dementia, as it is often perceived to be. To receive a dementia diagnosis, a person must exhibit at least two signs of the aforementioned cognitive impairments, significant enough to interfere with or hinder the person’s ability to perform everyday tasks.
It is important to remember that even though chances of developing dementia do increase with age, it is not a usual part of ageing. A common misconception associated with this syndrome is that it is often blamed for the regular cognitive decline such as short-term memory loss that people of advanced age might face. However, it’s not always dementia that causes it, there can be many other factors contributing to this problem.
Types of dementia
- Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, making up for about 50 to 70 percent of all the cases. It often results from the loss in connection of brain cells due to abnormal protein deposits. These deposits, in turn, lead to the shrinkage of brain cells and eventually lead to their death.
- Vascular dementia constitutes about 25 percent of the cases and is caused due to the inadequate supply of oxygenated blood to certain parts of the brain.
- Dementia with Lewy bodies makes up 15 percent of the dementia cases. It is caused by the build-up of tiny atypical protein lumps, called Lewy bodies, in the brain.
- Frontotemporal dementia is the most common type of dementia for people under the age of 65 and mostly occurs when the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain are damaged.
- Mixed dementia is that type of dementia which exhibits changes in the brain associated with more than one type of dementia.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s – the difference
- Most people are under the false impression that dementia and Alzheimer’s are one and the same and tend to use the two terms interchangeably. The fact, however, is that they are both different from each other.
- While dementia is an umbrella term under which a variety of brain disorders fall, Alzheimer’s is just one of those disorders.
- Alzheimer’sis a progressive brain disease characterised by death and damage of brain cells, especially those involved with memory like the cortex and hippocampus. The debilitating symptoms of Alzheimer’s such as memory loss, disorientation, impaired judgment and flawed decision-making abilities are attributed to the build-up of plaques and tangles in the brain. There are a variety of risk factors for Alzheimer’s, ranging from old age to genetics.
- So far, researchers have been unable to find a cure for Alzheimer’s but certain drugs are being developed to reduce the symptoms.