Back

Dementia

Definition

Dementia is a general loss of mental abilities. It can include a loss of ability to think, reason, learn, and understand. To be considered dementia, these mental losses must be severe enough to interfere with day-to-day activities. Dementia must also have:
Some Areas of the Brain Affected by Dementia
Nucleus factsheet image
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

Causes of dementia include:

Risk Factors

Increasing age is the most common factor that increases your chance of developing dementia. Other factors include:

Symptoms

Symptoms often begin mildly and get more severe over time. Symptoms vary according to the cause of the dementia, but often include:

Diagnosis

Your doctor may diagnose dementia through:
Imaging tests take pictures of internal body structures. These may include:
Cerebrospinal fluid that protects the brain and spinal cord can be analyzed with a lumbar puncture.

Treatment

Currently, there are no treatments to cure many types of dementia. Some medication may help to decrease the symptoms of dementia or slow its course.

Medications

Two types of medications that may be used to reduce the symptoms of dementia include:
  • Cholinesterase inhibitors
  • N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonists
Treatments that are being studied include:
  • Gamma-secretase inhibitors.
  • Tau fiber aggregation inhibitors.
  • Herbs and supplements, such as vitamin E , ginkgo biloba , or huperzine A. Currently, evidence is mixed as to the effectiveness of these natural remedies.

Lifestyle Management

This type of support is critical for people with dementia. Behavioral and environmental support includes:
  • Keeping you safe in your home
  • Providing a calm, quiet, predictable environment
  • Providing appropriate eyewear and hearing aids, easy-to-read clocks, and calendars
  • Participating in music therapy and/or dance therapy
  • Participating in physical and occupational therapy for daily activities
  • Encouraging light exercise
  • Eating a healthful diet
  • Discussing healthcare wishes with family members and doctors and appointing a healthcare proxy and a legal power of attorney

Psychiatric Medications

People with dementia often develop psychiatric symptoms. You may need appropriate treatment, such as:
  • Antidepressants
  • Antianxiety medications
  • Mood stabilizers
  • Antipsychotics

Caregiver Support

Caring for a person with dementia is difficult. Those providing care will need support. The Alzheimer’s Association is an excellent resource for families and caregivers.

Prevention

While the exact cause of dementia is not known, these steps may help to reduce your risk:

RESOURCES

Alzheimer's Association http://www.alz.org

American Academy of Neurology http://www.aan.com

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Alzheimer Society Canada http://www.alzheimer.ca

Toronto Dementia Network http://www.dementiatoronto.org

References

Alzheimer dementia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 29, 2015. Accessed August 28, 2015.

Alzheimer's disease medications fact sheet. National Institute on Aging website. Available at: https://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/alzheimers-disease-medications-fact-sheet. Updated August 12, 2015. Accessed August 28, 2015.

Alzheimer's disease and non-Alzheimer’s dementia. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/biomedical-libraries/natural-alternative-treatments. Updated May 4, 2015. Accessed August 28, 2015.

DeKosky S, Jeff D, Williamson A, et al. Ginkgo biloba for prevention of dementia: A randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2008;300(19):2253-2262.

Dementia evaluation. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 29, 2014. Accessed August 28, 2015.

Gidoni R, Benussi L, Paterlini A, Albertini V, Binetti G, Emanuele E. Cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease: The present and the future. Neurodegen Dis. 2011;8(6):413-20.

Kaduszkiewicz H, Zimmermann T, Beck-Bornholdt HP, van den Bussche H. Cholinesterase inhibitors for patients with Alzheimer's disease: Systematic review of randomized clinical trials. BMJ. 2005;331(7512):321-327.

Ledger AJ, Baker FA. An investigation of long-term effects of group music therapy on agitation levels of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Aging Ment Health. 2007;11(3):330-338.

Marjoribanks J, Farquhar C, Roberts H, Lethaby A. Long term hormone therapy for perimenopausal and postmenopausal women. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012;7:CD004143.

Middleton LE, Yaffe K. Promising strategies for the prevention of dementia. Arch Neurol. 2009;66(10):1210-1215.

O'Brien JT, Colloby S, Fenwick J, et al. Dopamine transporter loss visualized with FP-CIT SPECT in the differential diagnosis of dementia with Lewy bodies. Arch Neurol. 2004;61(6):919-925.

Schneider L, Dagerman K, Insel P. Risk of death with atypical antipsychotic drug treatment for dementia: Meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials. JAMA. 2005;294(15):1934-1943.

2/24/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Birks J, Grimley Evans J. Ginkgo biloba for cognitive impairment and dementia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009;1:CD003120.

9/18/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Anstey KJ, Mack HA, Cherbuin N. Alcohol consumption as a risk factor for dementia and cognitive decline: Meta-analysis of prospective studies. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2009;17(7):542-555.

1/8/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Snitz BE, O'Meara ES, Carlson MC, et al. Ginkgo biloba for preventing cognitive decline in older adults: a randomized trial. JAMA. 2009;302(24):2663-2670.

Revision Information