Causes of Dementia

Published by Steve Hedberg on April 25, 2009 Under dementia

Dementia refers to a group of disorders that causes an individuals mental capabilities to deteriorate. There are a number of medical conditions, called pseudodementias, that have symptoms very similar to dementia, so it is important to first rule these disorders out. However, there are also a number of medical conditions that can cause dementia.

Since dementia is not a normal part of aging, it is important to determine why the individual is experiencing it. Dementia is typically viewed as a symptom, so to prevent further damage, it is imperative to find out what is causing the dementia. The most common cause is brain disease or circulatory problems, which if left untreated can result in death.

Circulatory Problems and Multi-Infarct Dementia

With the exception of Alzheimer’s disease, an obstruction of the blood flow to the brain is the most common cause of dementia. This is often the result of a blood clot, which has clogged a blood vessel. However, it can also be caused when a blood vessel has burst and hemorrhaged into the brain. If a large blood vessel is involved, the symptoms often develop very rapidly, cause a stroke, and are fatal.

It is not uncommon, however, for a small stroke to occur and go unnoticed. Some symptoms that a stroke occurred are slowed speech that is slurred or numbness of the hands.

When a blood vessel in the brain bursts or is clogged, it is called an infarct. Symptoms of an infarct include dead tissue and coagulated blood. If a large number of infarcts occur, the individual is much more likely to experience loss of mental and also physical capabilities. This is referred to as multi-infarct dementia and is believed to account for between 12% and 20% of all cases of dementia in the elderly. Approximately 16% of other individuals with dementia have a combination of Alzheimer’s and interacts.

Reviewing the seniors medical history will often provide enough information to differentiate between Alzheimer’s and infarct dementia. This is because an individual with infarct dementia will typically have a history of strokes, vascular diseases, and high blood pressure.

The location of the infarct is usually quite specific, so it is not uncommon for damage to be limited to a specific portion of the brain, such as the left or right hemisphere.

Other Causes of Dementia

While infarct dementia and Alzheimer’s are the two most common causes of senior dementia, there are also a number of other factors that can lead to loss of mental faculties.

Multiple sclerosis is a disease that causes the material that helps insulate the body’s nerves to deteriorate. Over time, this causes loss of both physical and mental abilities.

Parkinson’s Disease, which causes individuals to experience tremors and problems with voluntary movements, can also lead to dementia in severe cases or when left untreated.

Huntington’s Disease, which is largely hereditary and causes changes in personality, decline of mental capabilities, problems moving, and psychotic symptoms, can also cause dementia.

Pick’s Disease, which is very similar to Alzheimer’s, causes the tissues in the brain to change and can result in dementia.

Creutzfedt-Jakob Disease, which is caused by a virus that infects the body, but lays dormant for many years, is responsible for causing an increasing large number of cases of progressive dementia. Once the virus becomes activated, it causes a number of physical problems, including muscle spasms, as well as affecting mental capabilities.

Importance of Properly Diagnosing the Cause of Dementia

Since dementia is often the result of a disease, it is essential to determine what is causing the dementia, so that the cause can be treated. In cases of true dementia, it is not possible to reverse the damage, but it is possible to prevent more damage from occurring.

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