What are the Causes of Dementia?
If you care for the elderly, knowing the causes of dementia can help in recognizing whether or not someone may be at risk for, or suffering from this debilitating condition. Dementia is, in essence, not a disease but rather an umbrella term that describes any number of ailments in which a person’s mental function is drastically damaged to the point that it interferes with their basic daily functioning. The cause of dementia in a patient will differ from person to person, as the condition can be the result of a variety of different ailments.
Aside from knowing about obvious symptoms and dementia signs, it is also important that you are aware of the most common reasons and situations from which dementia may develop. If the person you are caring for fits into one of these categories, you can expect that their risk of developing this condition is profoundly greater. Taking them to see a doctor about this condition sooner than later will be the key to early detection and providing the patient with an active treatment plan that will allow them to stay in a high functioning state as long as possible.
Reversible Causes of Dementia
In some cases, the causes of memory loss, cognitive impairment and various other dementia symptoms may not permanently damage the brain tissue, which allows, with treatment, for the condition to be reversible. Causes that may be reversible include:
- Alcohol Consumption – One of the known temporary causes of dementia include excessive alcohol intake. The brain damage that causes the symptoms of dementia in seniors and in younger adults can be a result of malnutrition, liver disease of vitamin deficiencies caused by long term alcoholism. If the patient refrains from alcohol intake and takes action to restore the body, it is possible that the dementia symptoms will reverse themselves.
- Head Injuries – Traumatic forces that cause injury to the brain such as being struck or falling can induce dementia symptoms. In many cases, depending on the severity of the injury, symptoms can reverse themselves, even up to a period of five years following the injury.
- Hydrocephalus – Characterized by a dangerous build-up of cerebrospinal fluid in the open spaces of the brain, this condition has the potential to damage a person’s ability to function normally, thus becoming one of the many causes of dementia. If detection comes early and the condition is treated, this will likely save a person’s life and help reverse the symptoms of dementia.
In other cases, the conditions that are causing dementia symptoms may permanently damage the brain, leading to permanent diminished loss of cognitive function. Causes that will likely lead to permanent dementia include:
- Alzheimer’s Disease – Causing more than half of the cases of dementia reported, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common trigger for this condition. In patients with Alzheimer’s disease, abnormal deposits of protein work their way into the brain and destroy healthy cells that are crucial to cognitive functions such as memory. While this disease is not reversible, certain medications can help slow down the development of the disease.
- Parkinson Disease – Another of the many causes of dementia, Parkinson disease typically presents with severe loss of motor function followed by the possible development of dementia in the later stages of the disease. While not all Parkinson’s patients develop dementia, it is common and irreversible.
- Vascular Dementia – Accountable for nearly 35 to 40 percent of reported dementia cases, vascular dementia is the second leading cause of the condition. Vascular dementia is often a result of hardened arteries in the brain that restrict blood flow to brain cells, causing them to die. These blockages will often also cause a number of strokes that will damage the brain, diminish cognitive function and create the perfect storm for the onset of dementia symptoms.
- Huntington Disease – An unfortunate and terrible disease and one of the many causes of dementia, Huntington is a genetically inherited disease that presents symptoms often between the ages of 25 and 40. The condition causes critical brain cells to slowly waste away and die, affecting a person’s reasoning, speech, mobility, memory and even judgment. While each patient’s experience is different, dementia is common in the later stages of the disease.
While not all causes of dementia are reversible, even the most severe are treatable with medications that can help keep the patient comfortable and slow the diminishment of cognitive function. If you or a loved one has one of the overlying conditions that are likely to cause dementia, seek medical advice to learn about your treatment options.
A debilitating medical condition, dementia, in many cases is not something that is avoidable and certain health issues, lifestyle habits, and genetically inherited diseases may put you at risk. Knowing about the causes and the risk factors will not prevent you from developing the condition, but it can readily help in allowing for early detection and treatment.